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OT - Is customer service dead?

JRI's picture

Just a rant here, I know the answer, yes customer service is dead.  Several examples:

1)  My financial guy recommended a CPA who Mom and I have been using for several years.  She does a good job.  Last year, she sent copies of the returns digitally however, I don't have a printer so asked her to mail copies.  I purposely dont have a printer so SD wont bug me to print stuff and I manage my own things ok.  CPA said I could pick them up but she is located about 30 miles away via a busy highway and I'm reluctant to drive it which I explained when I asked again that she mail them.  I eventually got them.

 Result:  new CPA next year, one who is closer and has some sensitivity to older clients.

2)  DH and I try to watch our expenses so shop at the local large nationwide budget chain for groceries.  Last Saturday, we spent 45 minutes in line amid the screaming kids, people trying to butt in line and all the rest.  They had 2 lines open, crazy since,I kept seeing employees walking around.  Today, we decided it was worth the extra $ to shop at the local, more expensive store where we were in and out with no problem.  They have covered parking, too.

Result:  we are definitely shopping at the local, more expensive, more convenient store, especially at the holiday season and maybe beyond.  

3) We had to go to our major communication company store about DH's phone issue.  Visit 1, the young man didnt ask our names, make small talk or make eye contact.  He also failed to correct one problem.  Visit 2, another young man didnt even ask 2 elderly people to sit down while he condescended to us.

Result:  both my son and DIL work for this company but the second they arent, we are switching to another company.  I'll research high customer satisfaction ratings 

4) Back in the day, I was hired as a receptionist at the company I eventually retired from.  I received a long discussion about phone etiquette, not letting the phone ring more than twice, being warm, friendly and helpful.  I recently had to call and after many rings, the phone was answered by a surly youg man who had trouble understand what I needed and put me on hold a long time.

Result;  I hope they keep making money

I know the pandemic has changed so many things but when life ever simmers down, some companies might wonder why they've lost business.  Ok, thanks, rant over.  Lol.






CajunMom's picture

The major problem I've seen in our community is from small business. I'm a huge supporter of small, independently owned businesses. I KNOW I can get it cheaper else where but I choose to spend a bit more to help out. Over the past few years, I've  seen a huge decline in service and also a huge growth in them EXPECTING you to shop at their stores, even when you point out the lackluster customer service. Example. While I was in the market for sewing/embroidery machines, a local shop owner was my "best friend" and I could do no wrong. Once my machinery purchases were done over a few years, I became NOT important. Back tracking on verbal commitments and being a bit smart ass when I pointed it out. And this scenario has happened at multiple businesses and to multiple of my friends.

Today, because of this shitty trend and with the inflation we are experiencing today, I shop for the best price. DH and I are retired. It's all about getting the big bang for my money. So, I have a mix of big box store shopping and small businesses that appreciate me for spending a little more with them.

JRI's picture

I'm always surprised when businesses aren't catering, just a little, to retirees.  We usually have more discretionary income, no kids to support, etc.  Oh well, I cant run the world.

CajunMom's picture

These experiences happened before CoVid. I clearly recognize CoVid has changed things but not for the particular shop I mentioned. They are still the same; in fact, worse. These days, I choose to support local businesses that are doing their best in spite of. And as a customer, I do NOT cause scenes, am not ugly and don't even say anything when ugly is directed at me. Empathy is what I give but if it continues, I shop else where.

NotYourAverageStepMama's picture

The board is indeed dead! You would think people would have more compassion and such after the pandemic, but instead it has gotten so hard to get good customer service. I very much appreciate a local coffee shop, everyone who works there is so friendly and one time I had left my debt card at home gave me my coffees and breakfast sandwiches anyway, with the promise I'd return to pay for them. I did return within 30 minutes and gave them a very good tip. 

i make sure I am extra polite and gracious to the people who actually give good customer service since it is so hard to find!

JRI's picture

"I'm imagining the major communication company engaging my services to enhance business at their local outlet.  I'd say, " Ok, guys, we have to make some changes here.  Every customer who walks in, you SMIILE, say hi and say Welcome!  What can I do for you today? You look them in the eye.  You ask their name and engage in a little small talk.  Then you listen to what they say and repeat and paraphrase to make sure you understand.  If they look over 50, you lead them to seating.  You fix their problem.   If another employee asks a question, you tell that "I'll help you as soon as I'm done helping these good people". When they leave, say thanks for coming in and please come back whenever we can help.  It is now company policy that you will NOT be lookng at your phones morre than becessary when in the presence of a valued customer".



AlmostGone832's picture

Sadly I think (almost across the board) Americans have forgotten their manners. People are so rude to each other these days and the entitled, "me-me-me" I'm the only one that matters, attitude is out of control. I believe that the lack of customer service may be one way it's showing.

JRI's picture

I'm doing the "back in the day when I walked 100 miles to school every day barefoot" thing so sorry.

Anyway, for awhile I worked in the accounting area of our company which is a niche mortgage lender.   One of my jobs was fielding customer calls and by the time they got to me, it represented a misunderstanding on their part or ours, not  the simple calls.  I looked at each situation as a way to get closer to the borrower as we figured it out.  Actually, it was kind of a sales opportunity because it strengthened the borrower's bonds with us, or so I thought.  Oh well, maybe a robot can do it now.  Lol.


shamds's picture

And when its packed, you queue in line like normal. I could have a full shopping trolley and a tantrumy kid that i'm doing my best to get out asap. Finally get to the front and checkout lady wants to serve an older lady back of the queue with like 1-2 items. rarely do they ask is it ok i serve them so they can leave quickly when i've got 1 tantrumy kid and i'll just say i wanna leave quickly too and if they aren't gonna open all the cash registers, she can wait in place.

that old lady saw me with 2 little kids and 1 who was crying. She looked uncomfortable having checkout lady bumping her to the front.

i hate shopping at aldo for that reason. Its like do you care more about repeated customers that spend $100 or more per grocery shopping trip or someone buying bare $5 worth of goods??

JRI's picture

I was, and am, always surprised by the people who aren't sympathetic and helpful to a mom with tired or tantrumy kids.  I was in a hotel lobby with DD and 1yo GD in a stroller one time.  GD was throwing a fit and we were in an area with doors and both of us had hands full plus the stroller.  I looked at the front desk hoping one of the 3 people would come help somehow.  Nope.  Never been back to that chain again.


caninelover's picture

But yes I do think customer service is really dead.  Most mega corps are trying to put in kiosks or whatever cyber interface to avoid hiring/training/retaining people in those roles.  Sad but true.

tog redux's picture

Well, it's clearly not dead everywhere since you are identifying other companies you would prefer where there is better customer service. Mostly what you are seeing in those places is bad management. Good managers insist on good customer service, provided the customers aren't rude (which I'm sure you are not). 

ETA: the labor shortage also complicates things a lot.

thinkthrice's picture

Quality Control has tanked.  Out of 10 workstations for our 911 center, 3 were bad out of the box.  I find you have to babysit each and every transaction.   It is a rare case where everything goes to plan. 

People fail to follow simple instructions... they barely read information.

lieutenant_dad's picture

Everyone is tired, and I have a lot of sympathy for customer service folks right now. I live in an area where folks don't take COVID seriously. I can't imagine having to work in a store for no/limited benefits, poverty-level pay, and people are being inconsiderate by not wearing masks or being downright sick while at the store. Many places around here are also working with much smaller staffs, whether it's due to actual staff shortages (e.g. parents who left or were pushed out of the workforce because they had minor children to take care of and no school/daycare; staff literally dying or taking too much time off work because they were sick; staff leaving for home-based or better paying jobs) or manufactured by the employer to save money (e.g. not hiring more staff in spite of applicants).

Working right now, for most people, is just rough. You're spending your PTO on quarantine and illness, not vacation. You're working with unmasked, unvaxxed coworkers who come in sick. You may be immunocompromised or have a co-morbidity but you need a paycheck to survive. You've got fewer coworkers than normal because those who could afford to stay home or switch jobs or whatever aren't there anymore and it's taking forever to replace them. Policies and procedures have changed, and continue to change, so everything is always in a state of flux. And all of this is happening while family and friends might be sick or dying, and your ability to recharge while under stress that an ever-changing pandemic and non-work world brings is minimal at best.

So, folks are grumpier than normal. It was happening before the pandemic, too, but I think folks were able to handle the occasional Karen's and Kyle's a lot better. Now, folks just don't care to deal with those kinds of folks and they can't recharge after having to deal with it spirals.

The CPA should have sent the files via mail. That's really the only example from the list where I see an issue. Phone company front line are dealing with angry folks who can't get a new phone immediately due to parts shortage (or are having to pay for high-end phones because that's what's available). The guy who answered at your old company may not be the receptionist and truly didn't know, or he was but the phones were ringing off the hook, or someone just yelled at him and he didn't have a chance to process. Should folks be nicer? Absolutely! But I think most folks right now are running on empty. We tell SPs when their emotional well is empty that they need to disengage. This is no different.

TheAccidentalSM's picture

Amen.   My team don't have to deal directly with the public but they are running on empty.  

They've been home schooling and working.  The thing they've been dropping is sleep.  

advice.only2's picture

I always make it a point to ask cashiers, wait staff, employees in general how they are doing and that I hope they have a good day.  It surprises me how often many of them are shocked somebody acknowledged them and asked them how they were.  

tog redux's picture

I do too, and they do sound surprised. I think a lot of people treat customer service folks Iike dirt. 

CajunMom's picture

I've always been a friendly person, not demanding. I'm fair to a fault. During CoVid, the few times we've gone out to eat, we over tip. We clean up our table. We smile, are patient and compassionate. I have actually never had a bad customer service experience via wait staff - even before CoVid - because that's just how we operate in life. BUT I've witnessed countless assholes out there, badgering wait staff and store employees.

My "bad" experiences I've noted have been before CoVid and where it's ben bad, nothing changed with the pandemic. Still...we carry on as-is...continuing to try to help rather than be a part of the problem. Having waited tables and bar-tended in my life, I know how tough those jobs can be. And I'm glad I don't have to deal with the public these days. 

JRI's picture

I'm in a better mood after a night's sleep.  Lol.  

advice.only2's picture

I get it we all have moments, we are all human.  I have had terrible customer service interactions and I try to imagine how it feels standing in your feet all day, being treated less than because you are working this job and just trying to make it through the day.  I am lucky I work in an office, so if I am having an off day I can just sit at my desk and ignore calls and keep conversations with co-workers brief.  Customer service jobs can't do that and let's face it we all have off days. 

Gimlet's picture

I started my work life in retail and I can tell you with certainty that while I have more responsibility as an IT professional, it is nowhere near as soul sucking as working with the public and that includes my years being on call and supporting entitled executives.  My job is cake compared to retail and I make way more.

Timed lunch breaks, working on your feet all day, being nitpicked for the smallest things, 50 cents an hour for a raise, getting written up for being a minute late, and dealing with the general public SUCKS.   I was sexually harassed, insulted, and belittled on a regular basis (by customers!) and there was zero recourse for me.  The service industry is even worse.

Terrible service is a bummer, but most people get burned out and jaded because of the god awful customers so I try not to take it personally.  

advice.only2's picture

I started my work in the food industry and worked into a call center...I know how much customer service sucks.  I worked for a company that raved they sold cheap air fare...I had to hear "really you think that's cheap air fare....insert entitled rant here.." daily.  I am overly courteous to customer service to a fault based off my past experience.  

Gimlet's picture

Call center work here too, but point of sale support for credit card machines in the 90's.  I learned a lot but yeah, daily rants for sure, most of the time for user error.   We had notes on the accounts of the worst customers so other reps would know what was coming. 

I also learned that often that front line person can help you but you get a lot more being nice.  It isn't always true of course, some people are just bitter, but it holds true most of the time.

TheAccidentalSM's picture

My mom had a horrible time with her cell phone.  Multiple visits to the store during covid with no resolution. I told her to send her compliant and all the documents to the CEO, company secretary and the non ex directors. Low and behold her problem was fix immediately after they got the letter. With a call from the CEO's pa to make sure she was ok.  

JRI's picture

I've thought today about doing it but I'm unsure how much time and energy I want to use up.  Only got so much, you know.  Lol.

TheAccidentalSM's picture

And she'd made over 10 trips to the store.  At that point the time/energy scales had tipped towards it being worth raising a formal complaint.  But I get your point.