For Whom the Bell Tolls

We just got a bell at work. It sits on our customer service counter; small, shiny, silver-chrome, loud.

*ding*
The bell. Or as most of us at work call it; “that damn bell.”
*ding*
“There goes that damn bell again.”

You see, we’re not used to the bell. We’ve never needed one before. But hours have gotten so tight, and personnel has been reduced so much that apparently we now need one.

The reasoning is sound enough (pardon the pun.) With the bell there, those of us assigned to the customer service desk can feel free to do tasks away from the desk without checking in every thirty seconds to see if a customer needs help. Feel free to do busywork until, *ding*, customer time!

I guess that’s part of my problem. What was once touted as “award-winning customer service” that for years our company prided itself on (at least to its staff and shareholders) has been reduced to . . . a bell.

The other part of my problem, probably a significant part of it, is strictly personal . . .

*ding*
“You’re not doing your job.”
*ding*
“You’re not moving fast enough.”
*ding*
” . . . loser.”

Yes, it’s personal. I’ve always taken customer service personally. That’s why I get so worked up over issues I can’t resolve or customer’s I can’t satisfy. I take it personally. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

Nonetheless I know, it’s silly, right? Some of you have probably worked in retail environments where a bell was commonplace. But, as I said, where I work, we’ve never needed one before. Customer service was our job, our livelihood. It’s what set us apart. Tethering yourself to the customer service desk, if that was your assignment, was your job, your position, your post as it were. Nothing was more important than the customer.

Now what are we telling them? Now you have to go, *ding*, otherwise we’re too busy for you?

It’s probably just me. My wife tells me that I have an issue with having been reduced to being at a customer’s beck and call.

*ding*
“Here, boy.”

In a way—probably a big way—she’s more than likely right. Yet, for my own feelings of self-worth more than anything, I’d like to think there is more to it than that. I suppose, when it comes right down to it, staffing has been reduced to the point where those few of us who remain are being asked/told to “do more” and “do faster” by those few who remain in the management/corporate positions above us. And now, with a small, shiny, loud, silver bell, the customer is able to say the very same thing.

*ding*
This is great for morale by the way.
*ding*
Still, I suppose we’ll eventually get used to it.
*ding*
After all, at this point it’s still new.
*ding*
But it’s getting old really, really quickly.

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3 thoughts on “For Whom the Bell Tolls”

  1. These issues have weighed heavily on my mind, and I have come to the conclusion that when I care more about the “tasks” and less about the customer, it usually means I am having a pride problem. If I don’t get my stuff done, will the managers be on my case? Will I be considered a “failure?” Just how bad will I look? Also, if I don’t answer every back-up call I appear non-supportive, but if a fellow employee goes looking for a book that is stuck in my back-stock shelves because I haven’t had time to refresh the stock on the floor because I’ve been running around the store doing other stuff—–well, I look bad then, too. Yes, I know that was a run-on sentence. Just like my life.

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