Customer Service is Dead. Communicate Well to Revive It.

March 9, 2010 at 3:22 pm 1 comment

Full Disclosure: If you don’t like blogs as complaint delivery vehicles, you won’t like the beginning of this one. But I’m hoping we can start a conversation because of it. Miracles have happened in just such a way. Here goes.

I don’t “shop” much. When I’m in a store, it is a purposeful event (bicycle stores, ski shops and Hollywood’s Amoeba Records excluded). I go to purchase a product or service. Yes, I am often a victim of the “upsell” process, but I generally buy what I need, when I need it. And, most importantly, I will frequent stores that serve me well and at a fair price.

Make a personal connection and communicate to create a Customer Service miracle.

After a few recent spending trips (they’re not shopping trips for me, remember), I will now be shopping – for a new place to get my oil changed, for one thing. Customer service is dead, I didn’t watch it die, but I have seen the rotting corpse. And it amazes me that it would die now, when business owners should be doing everything possible to retain existing customers and attract new ones.

And I think I know how Customer Service died. It was left unfed or without personal attention. It would be like if I left my dog alone for days or weeks. First, it would likely turn angry, then it would simply perish. That’s what happened to Customer Service. Through personnel cuts or budget re-allocations or re-aligned management priorities, the one service that is often most valuable is no longer stocked at many stores.

Other products are there. Jewelry is in cases. Food is on store shelves. Mechanical services are provided. But personal communication and care, attention to customers’ needs, and personal service is gone. Left to Facebook and Twitter? Maybe. But like a recent story in The Miami Herald reports, social media often acts only as a “Band-Aid” to much more serious problems.

Hold on, there is a sign of life. It may be possible to revive Customer Service, and to save humanity in the process. After one of my recent encounters with the deceased (or near-deceased) I completed an online survey and voiced my remorse for the death. That same day, I received a phone call from a human being. It was a living, breathing human being who worked for this company, and he seemed to care for my needs. That means, of course, he cared for my money. And I’m okay with that. I was so glad he cared.

Through a simple act of personal communication, Customer Service may live to see another day. I’m not going back to that store right away. I bet it still has the stink of death on it. But I am elated in the hope that communication – personal conversations, not just tweets and status updates – can deliver other miracles of life.


Entry filed under: Communications, Personal, Social Media.

Paper or Plastic? – News, I Mean California Approves “The Lie”! Better Communication Options Exist.

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Irvine Journal  |  March 9, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    Good blog, Glenn. I think customer satisfaction begins with satisfied employees. Not many employees seem very happy these days. I recently witnessed a total failure of customer service with Jet Blue at Long Beach Airport. First, my daughter’s plane was delayed from SFO for 4 hours. When the plane finally arrived, her luggage (on a nonstop flight!) was lost. While the disinterested Jet Blue employee began filling out a lost luggage report and lamely surmised the lost luggage would probably show up before the morning, my two youngest daughters were playing near a screened-in storage area and spotted the missing bag! The bad-attitude employee paid mild attention and finally walked back to see what the girls had found and there it was! The missing bag! Jet Blue apparently has no online tracking system to show the bag had arrived. The employee never smiled, never admitted a mistake had been made, never apologized.

    We pondered never booking Jet Blue again. A few days later my daughter received an e-mail from Jet Blue awarding her a $25 coupon on her next airfare, and admitted they were giving her the cash as part of their “customer bill of rights.”

    So corporate marketing and customer service gets it, but the front-line Long Beach employees don’t. They don’t even smile anymore. It’s a real downer.


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