Is Customer Service Dead?!
If You're Upset with the Lack of Customer Service in this Country; Look in the Mirror. . .
Everyone seems to have a horror story of their atrocious customer service experiences. If you ask a crowded room "have you ever had a horrible customer service experience?" every single hand would certainly rise in an enthusiastic fervor. The lamenting, whining, and complaining that plays as a musical in melodies as sorrow. I swear I can hear the violins strutting their strings in the background. Here comes a scene where you passionately slam your telephone against the wall, the vase tumbles and shatters into a million pieces, as a small child is crying in the background. Ask yourself; is this you? You're most likely nodding your head right now. In an aching voice you proclaim that indeed customer service is dead in America (or Canada)!
As someone who has been stuck in more customer service jobs than I care to count; I'm here to tell you that customer service isn't dead. It's very much alive; and it's one lively beast! What you must understand is that customer service doesn't discriminate. Customer service merely follows the emotional tidal waves of the commercial market. Customer service is neither immoral nor moral; her only goal is to seek equilibrium with you - the customer. If you find the customer service as it exists today as repugnant, understand that you and only you, the customer are the creator.
Love it or Hate it - Customer Service is Providing what Customers Want. . .
1) Large organizations in America and Canada tend to hold near monopolies or duopolies:
The bulk of the American and Canadian markets are concentrated across very few organizations - so there is no incentive to provide good customer service because the customer can only run to their competitor who is almost identical.
Do you shop at Wal-Mart or Target? Home Depot or Canadian Tire? McDonald's or Wendy's? JP Morgan Chase or Bank of America? Microsoft or Apple? See my point? Many companies have cornered the market on individual products and have created what are essentially monopolies.
In Canada, the government has deliberately created "duopolies" by heavily subsidizing a competitor in many markets just to merely prevent a monopoly. If the government has to resort to such drastic measures in order to prevent natural monopolies from developing; people need to ask themselves some serious questions about this economic system they so cherish.
Even markets that at first appear to have many choices, such as mortgage companies, insurance, and banking; upon deeper analysis you'll find out the giant spider web is connected to but a few companies. For example, in the United States this would be the Federal Reserve and Wall Street. In Canada, this would be the C.M.H.C. In the end, you'll discover that most of these companies while numerous in brand names, are but mere clones.
So why are the markets turning into monopolies? That's because many customers have never left the High School mentality of wanting to "fit in." You fit in by buying the same products and essentially sharing camaraderie by discussing the very same products everyone is familiar with. Not "fitting in" can have dastardly consequences for you. For starters, if you don't fit in, you most likely won't be graduating in a nice corporate college. If you don't graduate in a nice corporate college; then you won't be getting a good paying job, and so on. . . So many people do what they can to avoid being seen as the outsider. Corporations know and play this game well. Therefore corporations have little incentive to deliver sound customer service. The fear of not being a part of the group proves too great. It's not like Cheryl is going to stop buying Apple products after a horrible customer service experience when all her friends and her husband use an I-Pad.
2) Americans and Canadians are lazy:
Even when an American or Canadian is disenfranchised by a company’s service, they rarely back that up with moving their accounts. Firstly because it can often be a real bother and daunting to do so, but also because the competitor is rarely much different.
The truth of the matter is most customer service representatives’ chuckle in the background whenever a customer threatens to leave an organization. It's the most empty threat a person could ever conceive. Let's just say, betting that a customer will back up their words is betting against the house. You would have to be a compulsive gambler betting on customers telling the truth. First, as a customer service representative customers will blatantly lie to you. Second, in the end you'll get the last laugh because customers often lie to themselves.
The fact of the matter is most Americans and Canadians are too lazy to get off their butts and change companies.
3) Americans/Canadians love comfort and hate risk:
Let's face reality; changing a business makes customers jittery. While beforehand you may have dealt with the devil; at least you understood how the devil functioned. When you switch to a competitor; you're entering the unknown. You have to learn everything all over again. You feel awkward and uncomfortable. What if the competition turns out to be much worse and you look like a fool running back? Corporations know this well, which is why they sell uniformity at all their store chains. When you shop at a Wal-Mart, you can take comfort in knowing whether it's in Alaska, Seattle, New York or Omaha, it's relatively the same.
This is all the more reason why corporations don't bother delivering good customer service. In a way, the corporation knows customers take comfort in "knowing the beast." In a convoluted sense, the customer almost takes pleasure in being abused and sorting through all the mess. After all, how many times have you taken satisfaction in solving a difficult customer service situation? My guess is most people smile with glee when they solve the puzzle; forgetting that if the company cared it wouldn't be a problem in the first place.
4) Americans and Canadians lack the creativity to start their own companies:
This goes along with Americans/Canadians wanting to fit in, being lazy, desiring comfort, and avoiding risk. One way to solve the problem of an "evil corporation" cornering a market is to simply build your own company and become their competitors. This could solve many of the problems outlined above. After all, you're already familiar with the competition and the services (or lack thereof) they offer. I'm certain you know many people who think like yourself. You're no doubt passionate and knowledgeable of the product, which allowed you to put up with the bullshit of the "evil corporation" for so long. So why haven't you started a business yet selling that product?
That’s because you're not conditioned to think this way. You're trained to "go to college and get a good paying job" mode; and then slam the phone against the floor as you wait two hours in the queue. You've grown dependant on corporations for every aspect of your life and you're too afraid to challenge them. The corporations know this well, especially the corporations of the monopolist nature. They know all too well most people are too chickenshit to start their own companies in order to put an end to the monopolistic titan's grip.
So again, remind me, what incentive do corporations have for delivering good customer service? It's not like you'll take matters into your own hands. Reminds me of this one visit I had at Sobey's (major grocery store chain in Canada for those who don't know). A woman apparently threatened to "grow her own food and herd her own cattle" if Sobey's customer service didn't improve. Long story short, the cashier couldn't help but to have a slight smirk on her face. I even heard some customers laugh in the background after hearing her obscene remarks. For those who are wondering, I saw this woman in the same store the next day.
5) Americans and Canadians want things done quickly rather than well:
We're a culture of instant gratification. Nobody is willing to wait. As such, most of our business models reflect this "fast food nation" mentality. If a customer has a problem, he/she wants the issue solved as expediently as possible. He/she could care less about striking up a conversation with the customer service representative. As such, here enters the "robotic customer service personnel" or just robots without a human so to speak. When it comes to delivering speed; nothing beats a machine, whether it's a "skin job" or a programmed algorithm. The last thing a customer wants is for another customer to strike up a casual, human like conversation, that's holding up the line. The conveyor belt must turn and churn. People can't stand the very idea of having to wait. In such cases, delivering good customer service is seen as an inconvenience that simply wastes time.
6) Americans and Canadians love low prices:
Low prices will mean low wages. Low wages means employees compete for the bottom. Therefore, there's no incentive for an employee to deliver good customer service when another employee can deliver bad customer service; and they both get paid the same low wage.
Low prices will also mean cutting costs. Usually these cost cutting measures can be found in customer service because that area offers the greatest amount of budget flexibility. It's difficult to cut wholesale costs; and it's not like CEO's will be cutting their own pay any time soon, so what's left? Customer service.
Even when a business does provide good or high levels of customer service, where is the pay-off? If expending energy into good service means little to no extra business, while providing low cost bad service means little to no less business - which is the financially more responsible method?
Customers - Behold Your Creation!
So the next time you whine over a horrible customer service experience - perhaps you should bite your tongue. You may also wish to take a look in the mirror. After all, you played your part in creating the beast! The horrible customer service merely reflects what you deeply desire, but you're too afraid to admit it. You want "safe" products delivered expediently at low costs. The "bad" customer service (that you so hate) is the grease that makes this all possible.
I have to laugh at the right-wing reactionaries who believe Occupy Wall Street will turn America in a communist nation. After all, how can America turn into a communist nation when she’s already a communist nation? We've got customers here voting with their feet and dollars for uniformity, conformity, equally low pay, equally low costs, familiarity, speed, and security. The corporation is a mere reflection of these "values." The horrible customer service is a mere symptom. As such, the people have chosen to create what I call - privatized communism.
Creating a business environment with better customer service begins at home. If you desire a world with good customer service; then you need merely to think in opposition of all the six points I have mentioned above in this article.
-Donovan D. Westhaver