In the early 19th Century the inscription sine nobilitate, which translates as without nobility, was placed next to the name of students in top British universities. This was to differentiate ordinary students from their aristocratic classmates. The abbreviation was s.nob, which eventually became snob.
Over the years, however, a snob became synonymous with one who would apply such labels to others. Snobs were once those looked down upon. Today, they are those who look down on others. Snobbery is still, unfortunately, present within academia. For example, the idea of ranking colleges – scholars will tell you – is ridiculous. Doing so requires quantifying that which is inherently qualitative. However, that doesn’t stop people from saying “We’re the top ranked….“. This boasting is not always rooted in snobbery, but we all know…sometimes it is.
Snobbery is rooted in the belief that human worth is based on social status. Of course, most people would agree human worth is not something that is measurable on a scale ranging from superiority to inferiority. Nobility is not found in a title. Self-worth is not found in a neighborhood, or behind a steering wheel. It does not arrive with letters behind one’s name; or achieving a certain bank balance. However, there are customers who may feel differently. When perceptions conflict, we get a culture clash.
Here is an identifiable scenario: Let’s say a customer expects a delivery at 2pm. At 4pm his delivery has not yet arrived. You get a call to the effect of “do you know how much my time is worth? Waiting here has cost me $___“.
This is a snobbish reaction. It assumes the customer’s time is more valuable. It is easy to have disdain for this type of response while overlooking a key point: The delivery is 2 hours late. If the customer defects for a competitor, service quality will be the root issue….not snobbery. Yes, the customer might be a snob. But so what? That does not explain why his delivery is late. A customer is entitled to an on-time delivery…snob or not.
A consumer’s snobbish tendencies are likely to manifest when he/she experiences a service quality breakdown. The solution: Avoid such breakdowns. As professionals, we cannot control a consumers attitudes. However, we can influence his/her perceptions by providing excellent service that mitigates risk. We can prevent snobbish responses by removing the stimuli that gives rise to them.