We’ve all read and heard quite a bit about ‘customer dis-service.’ We’ve all encountered it — that moment, when you’re staring at the clerk, thinking, “You are not helping me, and I’m imagining you spontaneously combusting right now. That is, now, the only outcome that will appease me — you, in flames.”

It’s hard to keep your cool when you’re on that side of the counter (henceforth deemed ‘consumer-ville’), hoping against hope, that the person standing there will not only be able to help you, but be able to do it quickly and with almost no hiccup in the exchange.

What we should hope, I’ve discovered, is that they care about helping you. If they don’t, things can become pretty bleak pretty quickly. Yeah, we’ve all been there. In fact, we populate Consumer-ville. And we need to recognize that there is a certain amount of blame that the denizens of Consumer-ville should shoulder when pondering the widespread ‘customer dis-service’ phenomenon. (No one wants to hear this, but it’s true, and I’ll get to that in a minute).

Another thing I’ve heard and read a lot about is the ranting and raging that some customer service folks feel driven to spew endlessly onto chatboards and other internet forums. Most of the time, you can suss out just what kind of service professional they are in the first few sentences…and most of the time, they are the kind of people I wouldn’t want to face across the counter – the kind of folks who figure that they simply aren’t being paid enough to care about helping you, or doing their jobs well (much less with a smile).

That being said, there’s a large margin of those in Consumer-ville who’ve been to the other side — who’ve worked as Customer Service Representatives, and who have a bit of an inside track as far as how the whole shindig shakes down. In the spirit of camaraderie and shared experience, I submit this — The Customer Service Representative Bill of Rights

I have the right to expect to be treated as though I exist. When I greet you, and you remain mute, I must assume one of two things: you are rude and elitist OR you are deaf. It’s pretty easy to determine which with a simple test: repeat the greeting MORE LOUDLY and with FEELING!

I have the right to be treated ‘in kind.’ This means, that when I greet you in a cheery and delighted fashion after spending enough hours on my feet that they’ve gone past aching into a kind of persistent and dull throbbing that I’m sure will cripple me, and after having spoken with dozens to hundreds of other virtual strangers all day long…I expect to be greeted in at least a polite manner. Don’t spread your negative vibes — I’m flinging them off from all sides, all day, every day.

I have the right to be approached with reason and reasonableness. I, likely, did not cause your problem. I know that, you know that. I also know that I am the ‘face’ of the company. Know in return, that my face is the one that will be able to help you. Abuse me, and I’ll be far less likely to care what becomes of you.

I have the right to educate you about our policies, our website, our products — it is, in fact, my job. So, when you ask me a question, let me answer you. Don’t interrupt repeatedly, assuming that you know how it all works. Honestly, very few of you do.

I have the right to duck behind those policies, because that is also my job. I cannot effect sweeping changes in company policy — casting aspersions about my parentage and/or character as a result of not getting your way due to a stated company policy I did nothing to effect will not motivate me to do whatever I can for you. It will motivate me to discreetly flip you off behind the counter.

I have the right to be allowed to perform my duties with reasonable haste. Your lack of preparedness does not constitute my emergency. Huffing and puffing in line, making a scene, and/or pressuring me explicitly or implicitly to move faster than the speed of light will not make me faster — it will probably make me nervous, and will increase your chances of having a delay when my nervousness causes me to make an entirely preventable mistake.

I have the right to your attention as I devote my attention to helping you. Hang up the cellphone, silence the children (as best you can — more leeway is allowed on that, since children don’t come with mute buttons), turn away from the friend you came with, and talk to me (the person to whom you’ve come for assistance). If your issue is likely to take a bit of time to resolve, plan to come without the kids, if you can. I’ll entertain them as best I can, but I will be hampered by this little thing called ‘my job.’

I have the right to be fallible (a.k.a. human). People make mistakes. When you repeat the same actions time after time, all day long, I can guarantee you that there will be mistakes tossed into the mix. Be patient — I’ll be more motivated to resolve them quickly and in your benefit, if I can.

I have the right to fill this position. I was hired for a reason, and they kept me on for a reason — because I fulfill or exceed company expectations. Please do not think that you know more about how to perform the functions of my position than I do. I will do everything that I can to help you, but you need to get out of the way so that I can do it.

I have the right to bail on an interaction when it becomes apparent that the only word which will get and hold your attention and appease you is the word ‘Manager.’ As in: “Let me call my manager over (since you won’t listen to anyone but them, even though they will repeat to you what I’ve just said four times, and I will have to stand at their shoulder and watch you calmly accept it from them even though you put me through the wringer).”

I have the right to recognize that when you approach the counter with no intention of being helped, or appeased, that I will be unable to help or appease you. This is what’s called a “self-fulfilling prophecy.” You drive over to the store, expecting to be displeased. I, being a reasonably intelligent human being, note the distinct and immovable symptoms of this, and I do my job to the letter, and nothing more. You do, indeed, leave displeased.

WHEW! Well, that being said, I also have to say I LOVE PEOPLE! They interest me, they intrigue me, they amuse me. Otherwise, I wouldn’t take jobs that required me to help them and talk to them all day long! Let me help you! I am happy to see you, I am happy to help you, I am happy to exceed your expectations… if you let me.

Looking back, I’ve noticed that most of my jobs were either mostly or somewhat service-based. These are not observations that sprang, unbidden, to mind after the past few weeks. These are things I’ve thought about, and talked to friends about for years. I also recognize that these stated behaviors belong to a minority of the populace. Very few people are truly craptastic. Confused, upset, disgruntled, yes — but not innately so.

You want to know the sad thing? This entire blog post could be boiled down to one simple statement: Treat others as you would like to be treated. So simple. So timeless. And so seldom incorporated.