Service with an insincere smile

Friendliness be damned—I see it as a sham

By Jacey Gibb, Opinions Editor

Service with a smile: it’s not always what I’m looking for in my commercial exchanges. Sure, I often enjoy it when employees aren’t miserable meat bags and genuinely care about their jobs. If a worker is pleasant enough during a transaction, I find that it can even help brighten my day. But some places take their interpretation of what they believe to be “good customer service” too far.

The biggest offender of this malpractice in my life right now is TD Canada Trust. I’ve banked with these folks for almost my whole life and while we’ve had our differences, I would give our relationship a solid B+. But in the last few years, I’ve noticed a terrible transition occur: the rise of mindless small talk.

Personally, I’m a fan of aimless banter between two humans, hence my affection for Quentin Tarantino, but not when it’s a mundane exchange where one of the parties involved is strictly concerned with maintaining their source of income. “So you headed to the office today?” “Are you in school? What are you taking?” “You’re the most handsome customer I’ve ever had. Are you a male model?” I’m constantly bombarded with these conversation topics that are impossible to completely flesh out in the time that it takes to withdraw $60. They care about where I’m “off to after this” as much as I care about what they packed for lunch today.

As terribly dead-ended as this can be though, I feel like this whole exchange is merely foreplay to the ultimate punchline: when I finally receive whatever meager funds were lurking in my account, the teller throws in a sly “and how was the service today?”

And you thought glass was transparent—wait till you get a load of TD’s customer service strategies.

Feedback’s an important part of any business, I understand that. Forcing small talk is one thing; forcing small talk and then immediately revealing your motives is another. Of course these people are being paid to provide me with a service, but I don’t need a verbal reminder that they’re simply on the clock and doing their job. And here I thought it was just a normal exchange between two humans, with one party heavily more invested than the other. It just makes the whole experience seem insincere.

I know that not everyone is customer service savvy and that jobs usually require people to do things that exist outside of their comfort zone, but making it mandatory for employees to engage in awkward small talk doesn’t help create a more welcoming environment, but rather the opposite. Apparently TD is the winner of the Synovate Best Banking award for Customer Service Excellence again this year and has been for the last six (not that they’re bragging or anything) so apparently people like what they’re doing—but the false modesty just isn’t for me.

Because of the forced, often dead-end conversations I experience at the counter, I’ve started going straight to the ATMs found near the entrance for all my dollardispensing needs. While the machines might not have as many Synovate Best Banking awards, at least they don’t ask me how the service was today.

The Other Press

The Other Press, Douglas College's student newspaper since 1976. Articles, insight and updates from the New West and Coquitlam campuses.

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