Customer Service

You only have to google customer service to see how severely the level of customer service has dropped in the past 5 years. Site after site are detailing episodes of the falling levels of customer appreciation, never mind customer service.

You have your own stories too, no doubt. The restaurant that hurries you through your first courses only to routinely ignore you while you salivate thinking of all the deserts that you will order when they finally get to you. The sports shop where the manager rolls his eyes when you ask to look at an expensive item outside of its wrapping. The service provided by Telecommunications companies over the phone, where each call results in being transferred 4 or 5 or 6 times. The ISP provider who does not provide 24*7 help service and when you can eventually advise them of a (simple) malfunction, it takes 28 hours to rectify. The international freight carrier who holds you to its 3 week deadline for reporting damage, even though you were away for the 3 weeks immediately following the delivery of the goods. The café employees who discuss customers in front of other customers. The stories go on and on, and can be horrifying.

What is the Reason?

It is extraordinary  that customer service has dropped so rapidly across so many product and service sectors around the same time. In my experience here in Australia, it began the decline about 3 or 4 years ago. The reasons are sure to be simple when they emerge — the entry of GenYs into the workforce, a reluctance of businesses to provide good induction training or ongoing learning and development, the outsourced call centre phenomenon, lower expectations of consumers. What do you think the reason is?

A source of strategic advantage

No matter the reason, I believe that customer service will be one of the most important strategic issues facing businesses within the next 3 to 5 years. Those  who provide excellence in this area will have a strong strategic advantage over their competitors.

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  1. I, of course agree with what you have to say. with the Gen-y’s starting to move up the corporate ladder the Me, Me, Me attitude has started to filter through to the way they manage teams and the service they deliver.
    Unfortunately Gen-ys are also clever enough to devise reporting mechanisms to show they are delivering results. and Software and applications are supporting them to do that.
    I believe too many companies are introverted and worried about inner health rather than focusing on whats going on around them.

  2. I agree about the internalisation of many companies and this is increasing. One of the strongest (but not the best) reactions of the current climate is introspection.

    I am not sure that I am totally in agreement with all that you say about Gen-Ys. They certainly are different to Baby Boomers, but that is to be expected, right? Part of the responsibility of the organisation is to ensure that the right processes are in place, the right metrics are being measured, that feedback is gathered from the source (e.g. the customers) in the right way (to eliminate bias) and that the results are analysed and acted upon.

  3. I wanted to share a story of poor customer service that I experienced last week at a restaurant. My friend and I arrived without a booking and sat at an outdoor table, beautifully set with 2 cloths (one black and one white) and lovely cutlery, crockery and glassware. It was a beautiful hot evening and just the night for a relaxed evening meal.

    Firstly we were asked if we had a booking. When we told the waiter that we did not, we were asked to move to another table, not yet set for dinner. We understood and moved.

    She then began to set our table with cutlery and napkins, directly onto the unattractive stone top of the table. When I asked whether we could have a tablecloth like the others, she replied, “Oh, they are for customers who book. We usually don’t provide them for people who don’t book.”

    We felt about 2″ tall, as though we were inferior to those who booked a table, and certainly not welcome at this restaurant. Although we were given a tablecloth, we considered leaving (there were plenty of other restaurants in the street) but we stayed. I am happy to say that the food was excellent and the rest of the service was attentive.

    One small sentence from staff to customer – probably said in haste to cover a mistake – one huge impact.

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