Whatever happened to customer service?
Yesterday, I walked into a restaurant and the hostess took me to a booth to be seated. Noticing that there was water on the seat I asked the hostess for something to wipe it up with.
Now, had I been the hostess I would have gotten a cloth and wiped it off for the customer. But the hostess returned with two paper napkins and handing them to me said, “Here ya go.”
That’s just a small, but telling, example of the extent of the decline in customer service that exists in the US. Restaurant customers should not have to clean up the table (or seat) from the previous customer. This young hostess probably didn’t even realize that what she was doing was asking the customer to finish busing the table. But in effect she was.
Other areas where poor customer service seems to be rampant: long delays in doctors’ waiting rooms even though you have an appointment; auto technicians who fix your car just enough to get it running while ignoring other obvious problems (because they are swamped or it’s not the issue you brought it in for); office workers who continually give priority to the customers on the ringing phone even though you walked up to their desk first. This is not a condemnation of all those employed in these occupations, but only a few examples of common challenges that customers face in getting service every day.
Regardless of how often social media sites say they “get it” when it comes to audience engagement and interaction, customer service seems to be a challenge for them as well. Despite the popularization of incidents like Dell Hell, there seems to have been little impact on many companies in the technology realm in terms of paying attention to customer service or making it a priority. Although Dell managed to turn around it’s customer service issues (see IdeaStorm), many sites expect customers who have questions or problems to use FAQs, help forums started and maintained by other customers, or an outside company that may or may not respond to your question (there are no ramifications for them if they don’t respond since it’s not their site that you had a question about).
It used to be that companies thought about how to handle customer service before they launched, before they even opened their doors. Now, it’s left up to the customers to either figure it out on their own, or spend hours looking for a company representative to talk to who may have an ulterior motive (sales) for talking to you.
All this to say that the status of customer service in the US has declined to an alarming low and there doesn’t seem to be any end to it.
In my book, that’s not service.
What do you think? What has your experience with customer service been like?