Subscribers of this blog will know that one of my pet peeves is the fact that customer service seems to have been slowing in performance over the past decade. Today we are going to take a look at some factors that have led to this demise.
- Automation/ technology – In an ever increasing number of locations, your entire experience can now happen without you actually interacting with a fellow human being. You can perform self-checkout at several stores including Walmart and Target, just make sure you place your goods in the bagging area after scanning them! You can also go out to a restaurant for dinner and have the whole process, apart from the delivery of your food and drinks, handled by a computer.
- Poor communication skills – This can be due to poor training and also due to the current society that we find ourselves in. It’s a sorry state of affairs, but humans don’t communicate as much as they used to, at least not using their voices. Think about the last time you went to the airport, how many people were engaging with fellow travelers? Probably not very many. How many were instead glued to their screens? More than likely the majority. Next time you are out and about, check your surroundings and look at the ratio of people on their phone to those not on their phone. In most circumstances this is typically a 2:1 ratio, and is frequently higher in some industries.
- Greedy business owners – Owners who decide that they are going to squeeze every possible penny out of their business, take shortcuts and only focus on the short term. They don’t take care of their customers, they don’t return calls, they aren’t receptive to feedback, yet for some strange reason they believe that new replacement customers will immediately come flocking to them. Many owners will also completely eradicate their customer service department which never ends well.
- Entitlement – Many people now expect things to be given to them without the need to earn it. We recently went out for dinner with my parents and had to ask the manager to provide us with a new server as instead of helping us, our original server was stood close to our table counting his tips. In many places, the lack of service is clearly noticeable as employees now expect to receive gratuity regardless of the level of service that they provide.
- Laziness – Some people just aren’t cut out to be customer service representatives, and that’s ok. However, those that are placed in these positions have to spend the necessary time taking care of their customers. On our recent vacation, my husband asked the lady at the guest services desk a question and she just provided him with a very generic answer, and didn’t even take the time to look at all of the resources that were literally right in front of her face. This occurred at 6:30am, and it was clear that this employee was checked out and was not going to raise a finger for the rest of her shift. The member of staff replacing her was the complete opposite and went out of her way to help. Both had the information available to them, one just didn’t want to help because it was an inconvenience to them.
- Poor company culture – What kind of culture is in place at your current workplace? Is it customercentric, or is it profit based? Is the focus on integrity and doing the right thing, or is it on maximizing revenue and hoping that everything else works out? If customer service isn’t demanded, and a service based culture isn’t in place, it will be very hard for you to provide your customers with the service they crave. I am a big believer that this starts at the top of every organization.
- Competition – You would think that competition would actually force people to up their game, but it frequently has the opposite effect. Take, for example, two competing companies. If they want to increase their bottom line, they can increase revenue and/or reduce expenses. Instead of innovative solutions to grow their revenue, the easy option is to lay employees off and take shortcuts when possible. Customer service representatives are canned, and new salesmen on commission only compensation packages are brought in by the dozen.
- Outsourcing – The car dealership that I used to visit for services, outsourced their scheduling department. Now, instead of making a phone call to the dealership in Merriam, KS, you contact a huge call center in Dallas, TX. You speak to someone who has no idea who you are, and frequently doesn’t even know anything about the dealership. The next problem is that you arrive at your appointment and they have no idea about the appointment, the special that you discussed on the phone isn’t actually available, and sometimes they don’t even have you in the system. It’s very difficult to satisfy your customers when your “staff” are on different wavelengths.
- Overseas help desks/ call centers – This can make things extremely difficult for the customer as there are often language barriers, cultural differences, and the person on the other end of the phone frequently has no interest or understanding of the client that they are representing. They are just going through the motions until the customer decides to end the call. The customer service representative often isn’t trained to problem solve, and instead just tries to diffuse the situation.
What are some other reasons that you believe have had a negative impact on customer service levels in recent years? We would love to hear your thoughts, and are also keen to hear of any great examples of customer service that you have experienced! Please share your comments below.