Top Reasons Why Good Customer Service has Vanished

I’m not the first person – and I won’t be the last – to comment about how lousy customer service has become. At far too many companies, customer service is suffering – whether it’s due to bad hiring, bad training, overworking and underpaying their people, or just the general stress and frustration that so many people are feeling during a bad economy.

Perhaps the most highly publicized example of this phenomenon was the famous JetBlue flight attendant, Steven Slater, who apparently decided to resign from his job by cursing out a difficult customer, grabbing a beer from the beverage cart, and sliding down the plane’s emergency exit chute. (In the style of a true American instant celebrity, Slater now is fielding offers for reality TV shows.)

The Steven Slater story has been held up as an example of several cultural and industry trends – the increasing unpleasantness of flying, the steady erosion of pay and benefits in the airline industry, the growing nastiness and rudeness of Americans’ daily interactions with each other. But what if this story is ultimately about customer service?

In the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan wrote that even as the American economy has shifted from being based on agriculture to manufacturing to, today, “service,” our culture has not kept up in promoting the manners and personal standards of behavior that actually lead to good service. Modes of personal conduct that once would have been considered rude are now ignored, or considered just part of the cost of doing business in our customer service economy.

At one end of the spectrum, you have businesses whose employees are bored, lifeless, and never going the extra mile for anyone.

At the other end of the spectrum, you see overaggressive sales people trying too hard to “engage” while actually making their customers feel uncomfortable. You see waiters interrupt their customers in the middle of conversation or a quiet moment to briskly ask, “How is everything!” (Which is usually not phrased as a question, but as a statement – it’s the server’s way of checking the “customer service” box on their to-do list so they can move on to the next table.)

Focus on Customer Service to Develop a Competitive Advantage

The problem here is that not only is this the wrong way to treat customers, but it’s also the wrong way to run a business. By failing to improve their customer service, thousands of businesses are forfeiting what could be a huge competitive advantage.

Think about it.

  • What would happen to your business if you truly had the best customer service in your market, in your industry, or even in your city?
  • What if you had the fastest call response times, the best-trained technicians, the most effective sales people at building relationships and closing deals?
  • What if every one of your employees demonstrated that they truly cared about their jobs – not just for the paycheck, but for the chance it gave them to make a difference each day?
  • What if all of your employees felt empowered and energized to make every customer interaction as positive and memorable as possible?

Imagine the competitive advantages you can develop by answering and implementing these “What ifs”?

Focus on customer service. It could be the most powerful way to market your business and stand out from the competition – especially since customer service is becoming no more.

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