How could customer service get any worse than it is now? People just barge into restaurants and stores, all full of themselves, and expect you to drop everything to tend to their demands, never mind if you happen to be in the middle of a conversation, or talking on the telephone, or listening to the radio or having a bad day. And if they don't get what they want, or they claim there's something wrong with whatever they got before, they start carrying on as if it were your fault or there were anything you could do about it even if you wanted to.
Wait--customer service, you mean as in providing service to customers? Why should anyone expect that? Service people and their customers are becoming increasingly indignant with one another, and they're punishing one another's rudeness by becoming increasingly ruder back. What reason is there to suppose that the downward spiral in behavior will reverse direction?
Analysis of specific incidents--why the airline passenger mooned the flight attendant, why the clerk brained the customer--yields remarkably similar results. Everyone agrees that these things should not happen. Only the question of who bears the responsibility is subject to debate, to wit:
"You started it!" "Did not!" "Did so!" "Did not!"
Daily examples serve to point out why we should probably be grateful for rudeness. The customer who is ignored by people hired to help is at least able to leave in one piece. And the one who storms out angrily at least leaves the help breathing.
But changed conditions could bring changes in behavior. That is the basis on which those who deplore rudeness often voice the unseemly hope that some future economy will turn a few shades darker. When things are bad enough, according to this antidote for antisocial service, desperate, insecure workers will turn to politeness.
That misfortune inspires good manners is not borne out by history, although one might be able to make a case for the reverse (not that good manners bring on hardship but that good fortune inspires bad manners). There is even evidence that rudeness may be good for business. Inspired by the success of restaurants and nightclubs at which customers are treated so rudely that they offer the staff bribes to ward off insult, many industries have learned to sell ordinary service as a luxury item. Such marketing concepts as first-class travel, executive floors in hotels, and personal shoppers in stores are based on the idea that decent treatment and efficient service are not what the ordinary customer should expect.
Nevertheless, there have also been changes in our way of doing business that could eventually work to improve customer service. From the modest beginning signaled by the promise of "easy to assemble," we have trained people to pump their own gas and be responsible for installing and fixing their own telephones. We now have "assisted self-service," or hold for the hot line, in which someone is eventually made available to tell the customer to look around the store to find what he wants, wait around all day for home service or call around until a representative can be made available to tell him whom else to call. Every day people stop waiting in line and start waiting online. At this rate, all business activity will cease around 2015. This leaves only one option: people will soon have to provide whatever services they require.