What Happened To Great Customer Service?

The more and more I frequent restaurants, patronize businesses and interact with businesses over the phone… the more convinced I am that great customer service has become the exception instead of the rule.

Some of the most noticeable exceptions would be companies like Zappo’s, Southwest Airlines and Chick-fil-A.  Every time you hear someone talk about either of those  businesses’, they talk about how amazing their customer service is and how their bags fly for free.

I think we live in a day and age where businesses just want the quick win, the here and now and the show me the money.  Great customer service is a commitment to to winning over the long haul.  It doesn’t take any more time, energy and effort to say “Welcome to blah, blah, blah… what do you want?  Pull around to the window,” as it does to simply say, “My Pleasure!”

It’s ridiculous that I have to be amazed when I receive great customer service.  That should be the rule instead of the exception.  Well I guess me, you and others will have to continue to brag on those who do it well and those who can’t seem to figure it out will continue to go bankrupt, close their doors and be a thing of the past.

What Happened To Great Customer Service?

  • What’s interesting is that there’s a definite shift in business culture. Companies and organizations are taking note of businesses like Zappos, who are modeling what I believe will be the future of how businesses will win.

    It’s caring.

    People like Tony Hsieh with his ‘Delivering Happiness’ movement and Gary Vaynerchuk with his new book ‘The Thank You Economy’ are leading the way in sparking the conversation around the future of customer service. Things are changing, slowly, but surely.

    I think that as the world continues to become more socially connected through the web, businesses will HAVE to take note. They will either choose to improve their customer service to better serve their customers both online and offline, or they will be forced to by the increasing number customers who will complain online if they don’t.

    With millions of people communicating every second via the social web, it only takes one negative tweet or Facebook status to send a shockwave of conversation around a company or brand. This will prove to be damaging to businesses that remain stagnant and stubborn in the area of customer service.

    • Scott Williams

      I agree I did a post entitled Social Media Is The New Better Business Bureau http://bit.ly/dAMeqk

  • I think that the franchise/big box mentality of our society has caused customer service to slowly go the way of the dinosaur. I try not to be one of those “Wal-Mart is evil” types, but I think that with the closing of so many smaller, mom and pop type places and the proliferation of chains and franchises where multi-unit ownership is encouraged that people miss out on doing life with the owner of a business.

    What makes Chic-Fil-A different from many places is that they have few multi-unit owner operators, and even the ones they do have are limited in the amount of locations that they have. This allows the person who is most invested in the store to be on-site more often, know the true pulse of the store, and be able to model behaviors for their employees. It also allows their passion and work ethic to rub off on those that work for them. When you spend time working people who are only at a place for a paycheck, you really don’t care as much.

    I hope that we see a come back of the smaller, locally owned businesses for the sole reason that high school students can once again work alongside store owners and learn what it means to take pride in their work, and see the value in the little things like knowing the name of a regular customer. Perhaps I am getting old (35 two weeks ago… pass the geritol) and am pining for days gone by, but I think that this is a big deal and future generations are missing out.

    • Scott Williams

      Amen and Amen.. totally agree about the Chick-fil-a deal

  • I think we as consumers have to take some of the blame of the decline in customer service. We have tolerated bad service for too long…to the point where, like you said, that’s just what we expect. And, if that’s all we expect, that’s all we’ll get.

    • Scott Williams

      There is some truth to this, I find myself asking for the manager when I get great service more often than when I receive poor service.

  • Derek

    My family just had this conversation this week. And as you coul have guessed it was only because we received outstanding service. This should be the norm. Customer service is everything! It is not only delivering great service when everything is right, but equally important when it’s wrong. Taking a customers negative experience and turning it around is a true sign of great customer service. This is why those companies listed are so great. Even when things are not right they make sure at the end of the day the customer leaves happy.

    • Scott Williams

      I agree, I will always give a 2nd or 3rd chance to companies that are committed to getting it right.

  • Catrina Thomas

    I think that most businesses start off with the right intentions. In the beginning,a lot of emphasis is placed on serving the customer with excellence. Over time, some businesses become *distracted* by other details of their operation and making the dollar bill. They forget about those who are helping to keep their doors open. They are skating on thin ice…

    • Scott Williams

      I know, it seems so simple…

  • Beth

    Having recently quit a job in retail, I have seen some of the best and worst employees out there, and they come in all ages. One of the biggest frustrations I had centered around the way management treated employees. It was beat into us to greet every customer, yet a manager would walk right by an employee and ignore that employee like a smile and “Hi” was too much effort. Some employees show up hungover or too tired or sick to function, so they hide from co-workers and managers. Leaving others to have to do their work. It takes too long to fire someone anymore. Those employees who do appreciate their jobs and have a work ethic end up having to make up for the slackers and get burned out. It’s top down, people. If you get bad service, tell the store manager. If you get stellar service, tell the employee and store manager.

    • Scott Williams

      If you get stellar service, tell the employee and store manager. // nice

  • I have noticed the same thing and find it so disheartening. People don’t take pride in what they do. There is no excellence or going the extra mile. It’s just “get the job done.” I was taught to always give my best. I think that’s what is missing. People aren’t being taught to give their best anymore – but rather to get the best they can out of any situation for themselves.

    • Scott Williams

      everything rises and falls with leadership

  • I think part of the reason is that they value money over customers, the short term over the long term.

    It remind me of a story I heard from a friend who was trying to return a piece of tech equipment that cost him $750. The company would not except a return and it had only been 2 weeks since he purchased it. He basically told them that he will start tweeting and blogging about his dissatisfaction with the product and they didn’t even respond. They saw it more valuable to keep that $750 then to make his experience great and then get some great feedback from him and positive praise.

    I think a lot of companies are like a lot of Americans, living pay check to pay check and never looking into the future.

    • Scott Williams

      Money over customers… Customers 1st used to be the motto.

  • I agree. Customer service is the exception. The thing that should motivate it for most companies is the profit. The companies you listed there are actually making money right now. That should tell us all something… even our churches.

    • Scott Williams

      The church has a lot to learn from this

  • I need to read these blogs all the way through before I respond. I almost read that at chick-fil-A something about flying away. I would not want my order to fly away at chick-fil-A. But you meant southwest Airlines.

    You are all right, we all deserve good service. Customer service should be ours and ours alone. If we do not get good customer service, then it should be our responsibilty to point it out. We should not have to wait, be treated any way other than how we expect it and we should never, never let poor service go unchecked.

    As a Christian, I agree wholeheartedly in all of the previous comments.

    Oh yes, one question. Was it really 30 minutes?

    • Scott Williams

      Not sure on the last ? but the pic. sure was funny! 🙂

  • Dave Marrett

    Hey Scott, interesting post! more interesting to me because I have just returned from spending 2 months in the USA and comparing customer service in the USA to that in Australia is like chalk and cheese…USA WINS! As a consumer here in Australia it almost seems that to spend your disposable income at a restaurant, store, private school is more a privilege than a right!

    However the ‘take away’ point from me in this whole experience is what is the customer service ethos in our church, do people feel like they have been served well, can they find everything they need, do we give them a smooth transaction?

    We are probably as guilty as retail outlets sometimes in not providing the standard of customer care that Jesus has called us to and demonstrated for us!

    • Scott Williams


  • Candy B

    Love this article! I come from a family of retail and four years ago left and went to full time ministry. I hope I never have to go back to retail. as much as I loved the customer’s I didn’t like that management didn’t stand for what good customer service was. It’s all about the dollar now. My husband and I are small business owners and help run an outreach and at both places we have to teach what good customer service is because they have not received it nor were they ever taught it in their previous jobs. And for a side note when we help people to find jobs the first place we recommend is Chick-Fi-La because of their great customer service. I’ve never been to one if their restaurants and received bad service, no matter what state I was in. That speaks volumns of their leadership/management when know every state you go in you’ll receive good customer service from the same company. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Scott Williams

      Training and leadership are of ultimate impprtance.

  • We need to keep in mind service employees are near the bottom of our economic food chain. These people are dependent upon tips from their patrons to pay for their bills, and to provide for their families.

    Talking to these people you’ll find out since the recession started they’ve been hurt by you and I. Our wallets are tighter as gas goes up, so we tip less…. we stereotype them as welfare consuming highschool dropouts, as they stereotype us as stuck-up parsimonious elitists. I may not be able to afford my iPad or new iPhone, many of these people can’t afford the extra cost of health insurance every month, so they go without. It’s easy to rationalize “they should’ve gone to college…” etc.. I just left a book store where i worked for two years post college, out of the 30ish employees only 4 did not have a bachelors degree (those 4 were either juniors or seniors in college) about a third had their masters or were in the process of schooling for one.. this includes the staff in the café.. that uneducated person in the workforce stereotype fell with the Twin Towers- when this whole recession began.

    Part of receiving good service is being someone worth serving- Jesus wouldn’t want us to be picky about how well we serve one another, but we cannot expect our waiter/waitress to share our beliefs. However, we can control how we treat that person, with kindness, and a fair tip- even if they were a little rude… Jesus always wished the people who cursed him well before he departed, i feel we should as well.

    Jesus’ disciples were there to serve Him; however, Jesus washed the feet of those who sought to serve Him… We should metaphorically wash the feet of those in the service industry who are here to serve us as our Saviour exemplified before us.

    • Thank you so much, Ryan. I tried with a little sarcasm to say what you said in a much better way. I did not want to throw in the What would Jesus do, but sometimes people who need an extra serving are the ones who are giving us that extra cup of coffee. We have all been in situations where we are not giving our best in our jobs. it could be we are hurting, worried, troubled, ill, anxious, etc. I need to give the server that benefit of understanding.

      I still dont think they waited the full 30 minutes.

    • Scott Williams

      You bring up some good points, I think we should do all things well, good, honoring etc.

  • Oh, you are SO right! I think this is partially a result of a generation of young people now out in the workplace(s)who were raised by parents who focused too much on being their kids’ friends by indulging them, rather than teaching them respect, manners, and responsibility. Plus companies & corporations who -like you said – care more about the bottom line & want to get the most out of the least amount of investment. And therefore stopped investing in their employees & expecting excellence from them! (like those other companies do that you mentioned!)

    • Scott Williams

      You summed it up quite succinctly…

  • Amy

    We as consumers need to take some responsibility in the decline of customer service. It’s not just a statement on the service industry but as a society as a whole. Having been in the service end of it, I can be attentive,polite and eager to accommodate you within the parameters I am allowed. Until I have come in contact with an unbearable amount customers with a sense of entitlement. While as a consumer, you are entitled to great service and quality products you are Not entitled to berate me,belittle me,walk over me or use me as an outlet for everything that went wrong in your day since the moment you woke up. Granted there are many people who this doesn’t apply to on both ends of the spectrum. I just feel that both sides of the industry could improve…us as the consumer as well as us that are in the service industry.

  • Seems to me to be an outgrowth of the way people treat others in general. My observation is that where people treat one another with kindness and respect, general civility, there is also better customer service. Where there is meanness and disrespect, incivility, customer service worsens.

    Then there’s the whole human depravity thing.

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