It Bears Repeating: Customer Service Stinks
There is nothing unusual about a research study showing that Americans are unhappy with the service they receive from a wide variety of businesses. What is surprising is that little to nothing (apparently) being done to remedy the situation.
The latest survey, this one conducted by Consumer Reports, found that nearly two-thirds of people have walked out of a store because they didn’t get the assistance they needed. Sixty-seven percent have hung up on a service call before their particular issues could be addressed.
Consumer Reports has come to the conclusion that many companies are more interested in saving money than providing higher service levels. An article on the site points to websites that may make it increasingly difficult to find a phone number to speak to a real person and websites that steer visitors to FAQ sections rather than to personal help. "Although recorded messages insist ‘your call is very important to us,’ many companies are driving a wedge between themselves and their patrons through poor use of technology and inadequate training of staff."
Seventy-one percent of respondents to the survey were "tremendously annoyed" at not being able to get a real person on the phone. Sixty-five percent reached the same level of annoyance based on an encounter with rude sales staff.
Consultant Jack Abelson described service levels in the U.S. as "abominable" and criticized business for not being able to see customer service as "a profit producer."
"There is an almost complete failure to recognize and appreciate the value people can bring to the equation," he told Consumer Reports.
James Surowiecki, the author of Wisdom of Creeds, writing last year in The New Yorker, concluded, "Most companies see it (customer service) as tangential to their core business, something they have to do rather than something they want to do. Although some unhappy customers complain, most don’t — one study suggests that only six percent of dissatisfied customers file a complaint — and it’s tricky to quantify the impact of good service."
- Bad customer service irks most U.S. shoppers – Reuters
- What’s wrong with customer service? – Consumer Reports
- Are You Being Served? – The New Yorker
Discussion Questions: Why is customer service so bad in the U.S. and why is little to nothing (apparently) being done to remedy the situation? Has anyone created a mechanism to accurately evaluate the financial effects of customer service levels?