Thursday, March 26, 2009

Customer Service - You're doing it wrong!

The dreaded S.A.A.Q., the French Canadian equivalent of the well known and sorely hated American D.M.V.'s.

Last week, I got my driver's license and health care renewal papers. Fortunately, to make our lives easier in Quebec, we have the chance to renew both at the same time, at the same location. Included in my envelope was a flyer on the new RFiD chipped drivers license which would allow me to leave my passport home if ever I wanted to drive through to the USA, or take the train in. The documentation was pretty clear, there's an additional charge and "please ask the clerk for more information". Great!

Of course, like any D.M.V., the air is dry, the waiting room is filled with anxious people, and the tellers are anything but friendly. We even get a sordid reminder with a plasticized note saying "Violent behavior will not be tolerated". Fair enough. I can understand tellers not liking impatient speeders yelling at them for the high price tag attached to their drivers license renewal. (In Quebec, the more demerit points you lose, the more expensive your license is to renew. It can range from the regular 80$ for two years all the way to the low four digits... Ouch)

My number is finally called and I approach the teller with all my documents ready. I say a very friendly "Hi!, How are you today?". She pinched her lips and didn't even look me in the eye. She mumbled something to the effect of "surviving". Great start!

I then add "I'm here to renew my drivers license, and my medicare card - if possible, I'd like the RFid Chip -" . Before I even finish my sentence, she blurts out very aggressively: "You can't just do whatever you please here ma'am." Woah! Where did that come from??? I took a step back, put my left eyebrow down - my trademark "what was that" look - and said, OK no problem.

She was taken aback. I don't think she expected my retreat. It was very awkward. She proceeded with my paperwork, complained of nausea and a headache and sent me off on my merry way.

S.A.A.Q. you need to review your customer service methods. Maybe the verbal abuse your tellers receive is partly provoked by themselves. I know you have to deal with some serious characters on a daily basis, but a smile and a positive attitude can make an uncomfortable situation a little bit more bearable. These tellers are the government representatives. By putting people with little or no people skills up front, you are giving yourself that image and we all end up resenting bureaucracy.

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