There seems to be a real lack of customer service for many businesses today. With advances in technology, big discount mega-retailers and online shopping becoming the standard for consumers, the human interaction of customer service seems to be disappearing.
The “Service” in “Customer Service” has not only gone missing for big corporations, but it also appears to be growingly absent from small businesses.
I recently had a terrible experience with a big box home improvement store and also a local plumbing company. In addition, the air conditioning company that installed my new A/C system just two years ago seems to be completely unaware of anything called “Customer Service.”
With the decline in customer service experiences I recently have had, I wanted to research this issue further and see if businesses really care about their customers like they once did. What I found with some of the information was not only disturbing, but some of it was also encouraging. Luckily technology has not just been a killer of customer service with no interaction business chat sessions and robot answering services.
If you have an issue with some of the service you receive when making a purchase, there are some things you can do and you should do something. After all, you are paying for a product or service and should get what you pay for.
Technology and Customer Service
Unless you have been living on another planet for the last ten years, it should not come as a surprise that technology has played a big role in taking human interaction out of any customer service. Telephone talking robots, company website chat sessions and computers now do a lot of the initial work in trying to make customers happy. The problem is much of this artificial intelligence has not really helped pleasing customers. In many cases, it now only infuriates people when they get a customer service telephone line with a command prompt and robotic voice.
Why Have so Many businesses Moved to Technology for Their Customer Service?
The big motivation for moving to technology to address business service needs is generally to save money, increase proficiency and also keep more of the money made.
As companies are increasingly moving to a leaner headcount, customer service is one area they are able to scale back. The chat bots, robotic phone lines, and website help pages have and will continue to reduce the need for more human beings to deal with customer service issues.
Technology has also made it easier to keep track of customer service issues and trends to focus on areas that might require improvement. This has made customer service for many large companies more of a numbers game than it is about the actual customer. The result has not necessarily been a good thing, which will be pointed out in more detail within this article shortly.
Although there might not be much available for statistics to prove this next issue with customer service and technology, I believe the problem does exist. The one issue with technology and customer service is it has also made many businesses hold onto much more of the money they make. It can be exhausting to go through the battle of customer service robots, chats, and emails to get someplace as a customer to either get a problem solved or a refund. Companies know this and they know people just give up.
When customers don’t want to hassle with bad service to get their money back or have their experience improved the business provider wins.
All of the Customer Service Technology Hasn’t Been Completely Terrible
While a lot of technology has diminished the customer service experience for people, it hasn’t all been bad. The one big positive is probably due to all of the useful apps that have been created. These little software customer service geniuses have often been helpful and pleasing to work with.
Take for example flying from one place to another. The airlines and even third-party providers have Apps that let people know when a flight has been delayed or canceled. Also, you might even be able to check in on your smartphone or reschedule a flight. Apps have helped in a lot of ways when it comes to customer service.
Technology for payments and refunds has also made the customer experience much better in a lot of ways. The cashless payments of today with credit cards and debit cards make it a simple process. Add this to the increasing use of key fobs with payment information and it can be very fast to make a payment or get your money back. Paying for gasoline with pay at the pump you never even have to interact with anyone.
There can’t be any way to deny that technology has certainly sped up the customer service experience in a lot of ways.
Big Mega Retailers and the Customer Service Problem
One of the big problems today is the big box mega-retailers have taken over and pushed out many small businesses that might have once existed. Something as simple as finding a hardware store a person might have had several to choose from at one time. Now, you might live in a town where the local Lowe’s or Home Depot might be your only local options.
The issue with large mega big box stores is sometimes they are the only choice. They are so big that the customer is just another number. Here is where the problem truly lies in a lot of cases when it comes to the “Service” in “Customer Service.”
Remember the technology I mentioned that can pinpoint areas of concern for customer service? Big businesses have precise metrics on their customer service. They might have something like a 4% acceptance rate for unhappy customers and you could be one of these. When this happens you just become a statistic. It’s no longer about customer service and when a business is big enough, they many times don’t really care about your happiness or satisfaction.
One of my recent no service experiences was with one of the big box home improvement stores. Although I spoke with the manager of the store of the issues I experienced and even their head of corporate for customer service, the problems I had really did not seem to be a big issue. If you want to read the details, here is the exact email I sent to their corporate person in charge of customer service. The result was a fluff phone call with no real resolution. Feel free to use it as a template. It did at least get a response, however non-useful their response was.
It’s not just the one bad customer service experience I had with a big box store recently. This seems to be the new normalcy in many cases. At least this has been my experience and from my research the same issues appear to be happening for an increasing number of consumers.
Customer Service Issues Are Not Only a Problem for Big Retailers
Being just a customer service issue with big national stores and an acceptable metric is something that I personally have almost just come to expect. But it’s not just big public companies. Small business owners also appear to be having a difficult time providing any type of quality customer service any longer.
I feel this is due to many of the smaller business owners also having to cut the number of people that are dedicated to their customer service in order to try and compete with the larger companies and the race for the lowest price.
Recently I had a plumbing issue in my home and they tried to charge me for the time to have a part delivered in addition to bringing the incorrect part the first time. How can anyone think this is fair and acceptable?
The air conditioning system I purchased two years ago has had nothing but issues. However, against my better judgment of warranties, it has 10-year parts and even 5 years of labor for problems. I was told the work would be honored by anyone because it is under the AC manufacturer. Now, no one wants to fix it when there are issues.
For a lot of smaller businesses, once the check is cashed there doesn’t seem to be any more care for the customer.
As the small business has to compete with much larger companies and lower margins, they are very often ignoring their customer service issues to turn a profit and stay open.
Cautionary Statistics for Companies and Their Customer Service
Although not all companies have terrible customer service, it appears that many of them have a growing issue with providing a good experience. Most businesses and particularly the larger big retailers are not oblivious to the issues. However, if they are not paying attention very closely, they should be and here are some facts and statistics to keep in mind.
- It costs a lot more money to acquire new customers compared to keeping the ones you already have.
- A study by New Voice Media showed that 47% of consumers would recommend a business to other people if it provided a better customer service experience.
- 42% of the respondents in the same study left a business as a result of poor customer service.
- Another publication by PWC showed that one in three consumers say they would walk away from a brand they like after one bad experience.
These are just a few of the things to keep in mind when it comes to providing quality customer service. There are many more.
It’s Not Always About Price
Today’s businesses are very competitive due to the shopping options either locally or online. For many companies, the race is always for the lowest price to attract customers. However, studies have shown everything is not always about the price. A PWC study showed that great customer experiences can actually pay off with a 16% price premium on products and services.
Being loyal to the customer and providing great service can actually pay off. There are people that will pay slightly more for a better experience. With the decreasing care for good customer service, it might be easy to assume more people might decide to choose a good experience over price.
What Can You Do About a Terrible Customer Experience?
Even though much larger and some small companies have decided to let their customer service no longer be of any service, there are some things that you can do and technology is definitely on your side. You just need to use the tools available and make enough noise. This will sometimes get a response.
The Internet Might Put Service Back in Customer Service
When it comes to large and small companies that have poor service social media is the great equalizer. Companies have started to recognize this and some of the big ones even have people monitoring social medial for problems.
If you have an issue with a company that they refuse to resolve, blast it on Facebook, Twitter and anyplace else you can think of. Visit the social media page of the company and leave a review.
Look up the business owner on the company’s website and send an email. Leave a review on other sites like Yelp and Google. Also, make a complaint to the Better Business Bureau if you can’t get a resolution. Complain to the state for a service that might be licensed.
All of the suggestions above might get you a response if you are not getting any customer service. This is particularly the case with smaller companies that really rely on their reputation.
For many companies large and small, the race for the lowest price and the bottom line do appear to have really hurt the customer service experience. When it comes to providing a positive customer experience profits have unquestionably been put above a positive customer experience. This is especially the case for large companies that answer to their shareholders and use metrics for acceptable unhappy consumers.
The technology that increasingly is replacing people for customer service is helping, but it’s also hurting in a major way. More businesses should really start to focus more on the long-term quality of their customer service rather than the short-term monetary gains. If they don’t, customers will eventually turn to another place to purchase the things they need and they will likely even pay a little more for it.