Summer 2018

Are You Being Served: The Highly Offensive Customer Service Hierarchy

DISCLAIMER: This post contains views that are mine alone and do not represent those of any friend, family, employer, or service provider. Read on at your own risk. 

Alternate Titles:
How to Win at Customer Service, Personal Finance, and Life in General
This One’s For You Roseanne, Martha Stewart, and Paula Dean
Equality? What that?
Confessions of a customer service rep: Your race determines…

Along the way in My Early Retirement Journey, I’ve made some keen observations. Today I am sharing one such observation with you, my three loyal readers. Along the same vein as Chappelle Show’s “Racial Draft,” there are some serious points cloaked in absurdity. So if you’re wondering How to Win at Customer Service, Personal Finance, and Life in General, here’s this handy chart I made that can serve as a guide. (P.S. Google, please don’t delete my blog. Love ya, mean it!)

This visualization is based on my very unscientific poll of co-workers past and present, other humans, and my experiences, in no particular order, as: an observant, nomadic naturally curious human; waitress; cashier; public school teacher; public school graduate; community college adjunct; call center employee twice over; college graduate; and human immigrant living in America. I navigate life by putting people (and experiences) in categories. I shall call you a liar, if you say you don’t. With Fourth of July just ahead, sure let’s celebrate our independence and myriad freedoms but also recognize it’s not always distributed equally.

The Customer Service Experience:
At just about every encounter with another human in America, customer service is occurring. We are either the customer (recipient of the service) or the one providing the service (provider). Sometimes we are both at the same time. For example, at my teaching job, I was providing customer service to my students as part of the classroom experience. And at a higher level the school was the provider, and the students and I were recipients in terms of choice for education and employment, respectively. At my call center job, I provided customer service to callers as my primary role, 8 hours a day. Additionally, our company provided a service to the client for whom we provided contact center services.  In our role as actual human resources, my co-workers and I were the recipients of customer service from our employer. And the hierarchy applied there too in terms of which squeaky wheel got the best oil. While most ostensibly identifiable in experiences where there is an exchange of currency for goods and services, the customer service experience is everywhere (#haveyouseenamericalately #affluenzateen #borderwall).  These are my observations.

My Early Retirement Journey - How to Win at Customer Service, Personal Finance, and Life
Ignored, disregarded (bottom)  → Acknowledged, highly regarded (top)

How to use this chart:

  • At the bottom of the hierarchy are those who are easily ignored or disregarded and generally receive lackluster customer service. As you move closer to the top, you find the customers who are often first to be acknowledged, attended to, accommodated and highly regarded in the customer service experience in just about every arena.
  • Recognize your place. Know its limitations. Or its privileges.
  • Unless you are some sort of social justice warrior, you can either spend your time fighting your place in the hierarchy OR trying to live your life. If you are an ordinary human, you likely don’t have the energy for both. Choose. Or, don’t and be exhausted, frustrated, and defeated.
The point is the way we are treated in daily interactions with other people start to wear down on us. It bleeds into our personal life and can distort our goals and perceptions of the world. Recognize it. If you’re at the bottom of the hierarchy, don’t give it much more of your energy than that. We all participate in this insidious hierarchy to some extent, based on our own personal experiences, social programming, or position, paid or otherwise, or it would cease to exist.  Again recognize it and do your best to focus your attention where it matters: your life’s purpose, priorities, and principles. Don’t let your place on the hierarchy be an unforeseen line item; it may be a liability but one that can be accounted for and overcome. Don’t let it hinder you from reaching your goals, personal, financial or otherwise. If we read and write about debt busting goals and intentional spending and savings aspirations in spite of shaky beginnings, I encourage you to track this is as a liability (or asset) but only in so much as it informs your life to make it better. Go forth and prosper! I urge you! “Your insight and understanding will protect you.” (Proverbs 2:11 (TEV))

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  1. ooo – that hierarchy is quite in your face MERJ! But, I would on the whole agree you even though it makes me feel uncomfortable because I am not near the bottom. I have seen too many instances of this playing out even at my workplace which is truly disappointing.
    Onwards and upwards – get your 5 week mini break booked please, it cannot become a staycation.

  2. Lean into your discomfort, i'd say. You can try to use your powers for good or not. Eh. Yeah the workplace is really where it hurts the most, with the jobs I've had it's just so open and people talk about it but what can we do? Most eye-opening was when I was a teacher…eek! anyway, sunny year, just churned out some new drafts… oh i love the creation high! my fave… nothing for ya on the mini-break front..i'd all but forgotten…

  3. *that should say sunny here.
    (p.s. yeah it was a bit of a risky post but it's important and with 3 followers, what do i have to lose. #newbloglife)

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