This article begins with a story about a man named Jerry. Jerry is an Uber driver. He picked me up today to take me to the airport. Jerry had moved from a neighborhood near Chicago called Arlington Heights to Orange County, California is the 70’s. He has four kids, nine grandkids and a dog. Jerry was friendly and helpful. We chatted about climate change and other miscellaneous topics . Jerry closed out the ride by telling me, “Well you got 5 stars.” I giggled a bit and asked if he was kidding. He explained to me that Uber had begun asking drivers to rate their customers. He explained that when people are just flat-out nasty or inconsiderate of human standards he has the option of giving them fewer stars. The customer is now being judged. Consumers have previously been about to rate the drivers on a 1-5 star scale on this taxi app. Now, they too have the ability to rate the customers. This reminded me of Airbnb, a company that allows hosts to rent out their home or rooms to customers traveling to their location. House hosts and renters alike can be rated on the site. It helps with accountability on the end of the host and the consumer.
Before becoming a counselor, I worked in customer service for 15 years. I’ve had over a decade being the customer and the consumer. I’ve had over a decade dealing with difficult customers over the years or with poor customer service as the consumer. Sometimes we are quick to yell at the waitress or to be short-tempered to the attendant. Most of the time the temper had probably been building prior to our interaction, but now we get to take it out on someone. There was an imbalance and that imbalance is being acknowledged. Workers and staff have always been the only ones held accountable to serve with respect. We incorrectly assume that service is the action that must be taken seriously and in high regard for customer satisfaction. The saying, “the customer is always right” makes us believe that it is okay to yield power over the worker and thankfully times are changing. In a world where some people just feel “owed” respect the inequality can take a much stronger meaning then that of the shop owner being faithful to the consumer.
Business is about relationships. Relationships are about a balance and exchanges of understanding. This article in no way negates the power of good customer service, but it’s an interaction between two individuals and not a right of power for the consumer. We must hold every person, customer and worker alike to the standards of politeness, respect and service. The customer isn’t always right anymore. Every person is held to the human standards of decency. Interactions with people and places take place frequently. We are all being measured. The scoff, the smile, and our tones will all be judged. It wouldn’t hurt us to all have accountability to be polite anyways. Kindness is contagious.