Friday, January 20, 2012

Lament of Customer Service

Long before anyone around now the general business practice was full service to the customer. The first self-service grocery store was patented in 1917. It’s been downhill for the customer ever since.

Full service grocery stores gathered the orders from the customer’s list presenting or delivering the order to the customer’s specification.

Plus for business: controlled inventory; Plus for economy: employed people; Plus for customer: product and service.

Self-service grocery stores offer a self-push cart for customers to shop then present the selection to the cashier. Recent developments have store owners eliminating cashiers in promotion of self-check-out machines. Upon leaving the store, the customer loads the vehicle and delivers their order home.

Plus for business: lower payroll

Minus: for business: limited control on inventory, fewer customers and smaller sales; Minus for economy: fewer jobs; Minus for customer: DIY, DIY limits options; DIY=not a valued customer

Phone service in its infancy employed a multitude of operators who provided directory assistance and assistance making calls. Today, automated service directs callers to the internet. The internet provides dubious information in a helter-skelter arrangement which makes finding a local business or the family down the street virtually impossible.

Plus for business: lower payroll

Minus for business: failure to meet primary purpose of service, ‘people connecting with people’, fewer customers for the product; Minus for the economy: fewer jobs, fewer business and social connections; Minus for customer: DIY limits options

When gas stations offered full-service in the better interest of the customer, they employed attendants who pumped the gas, checked the oil, washed the windows and offered suggestions for needed servicing.

Plus: lower payroll

Minus: spillage, equipment damage, smaller sales; Minus for the economy: fewer people able to afford driving, travel, etc.; Minus for the customer: Ruined clothing, lesser maintained cars.

Calculate the pluses & the minuses, businessmen should take note of the balance sheet from the customer's perspective.

Customer surveys indicate a decline of brand-loyalty. The reason most customers give for not offering loyalty to a company or store is they don’t feel valued.


Suppose you are a customer:
Do you feel valued when you have to serve yourself through a gauntlet of phone selection menus?
Do you feel valued if a person answers the phone & connects you to the correct person or department?
Prefer texting? That’s okay: Can a knowledgeable employee respond?

What less customer service says to the customer: We don’t care if you shop with us. We don’t care if you buy our product. So the customer goes elsewhere.

The short sweet answer: Be polite to the customers. Oh, and have someone answer the phone.

My favorite companies answer the phone, respond to emails and provide service and products in a timely fashion with employees who know the product and can offer advice for a better experience. I'm brand loyal to those companies. I wish there were more like them.

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