Mash Media managing director Julian Agostini looks at the value of customer service. 

What price our principles? It’s a paradoxical question, of course, as principles shouldn’t be compromised at any cost but is that real life? We only have to look at the current situation in Ukraine to see that.

On a far more trivial level, I have questioned my own resolve when flying with Ryanair as their marketing and offers can sometimes cloud the memory.  Although it is hard to believe that anything could compete with Ryanair’s lack of customer service, the Delta Airlines experience, featuring hostility and denial, is a new low that no customer should have to endure.  After the third contemptuous rebuttal and aggressive reply to my complaint letters, Delta really has been confined to the ‘never again’ pile.

In doing battle with Delta, however, it became clear that the anonymity of each individual’s situation allows these organisations to literally fake customer service with the seeming intent of wearing the customer down until they go away.

Firstly, it’s impossible to speak to anyone in authority or even get a real name and job title with an email.  All replies are standardised, emotionless and absolutely never accepting blame or accountability.  The thin veneer of politeness to the customer comes in the form of delivering the message (which screams ‘we don’t care, go away’) with a passive aggressive calm and adding the word sir or madam regularly.

The net result is that the beleaguered customer becomes frustrated and irritated and the customer service representative ends the communication in triumph, stating that the customer became unreasonable. You can not blame the individuals (other than being happy in a job that actually does the exact reverse of what the title suggests); it is a policy that the company has put in place and it seems to be further and further in vogue.

Many online companies seem to have perfected the method of avoiding any real conversation with disgruntled clients in the supposed hope that they give up on their gripe and then time will be the healer.

This disregard of the customer is also one of the side effects from the pandemic.  Whilst there was a feeling of unity for a while, this has quickly disappeared.  As restrictions were gradually eased or lifted at various stages, it seemed that people in service, of any description, had become obsessed with rules. The customer is always wrong or guilty was how it generally felt if you dared to venture out.

Power intoxicates, of course, and is dangerous in the hands of those who haven’t earned it… became almost the norm to expect a lack of service and someone who should be looking after you just barking orders with a revolting self-importance like an over zealous school prefect or traffic warden.

It feels like a long way back to having a world where the customer is right again, but exhibitions can play a major part in this. We are the face-to-face specialists and as our industry roars back, there is a great opportunity to remind people how good it feels to be looked after.

An exhibition should be a heartwarming, exciting event for exhibitors and visitors alike.  The spirit of the show starts with the organiser and the onsite staff. We all talk about creating experiences and that emanates from the right attitude.

There is no place to hide in an exhibition which is why people who want to move forward at pace visit shows.  Real conversations with people who take responsibility and accountability and actually want to talk to you and answer problems.  How refreshing.

Mash Media is onsite all this week at ExCeL for Confex, Event Production Show, The PA Show and The Publishing Show. If you are in the group that understands the power of events, you will be welcomed with a smile.

It’s a principle to practise what we preach.