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A small business blog featuring tips to help entrepreneurs succeed in the small business world. Topics include family business, human resources, marketing, money, networking, operations, ownership, startup, taxes and technology.
What Ever Happened to Customer Service?

Customer service is hard to come by these days. So much so that advertising agencies are coming up with ad campaigns that emphasize the effective customer service a business provides. Instead of it being an expected part of everyday business dealings, quality customer service has become a commodity. I know I’m not the only one who finds that appalling.

Let’s look at recent news for an example, shall we. How about that American Airlines flight the Friday before New Year’s, traveling from San Francisco to Dallas (usually a 3.5 hour flight). The flight was diverted to Austin, Texas because of bad tornado weather in Dallas.

The divertion wasn’t the problem, it was the fact that the Austin control tower refused to let the flight taxi into a gate and the passengers stretch their legs – so they sat in the plane for over 8 hours!

Toilets overflowed, water ran out and the only food available was pretzels. What was the reason the flight couldn’t get a gate? Because the control tower was reserving the four gates available at the airport for Austin flights only, so that they would remain on schedule! They simply chose to disregard AA flight 1348 and its 138 passengers.

Eventually, the captain got sick of it and taxied into a gate without permission. Because of the extended delay, the flight didn’t depart for Dallas until the next morning. One passenger said it was like being held hostage. American Airlines claims something went wrong and someone will be held responsible. The same passenger noted that apologies would be “too little, too late.”

How do people sleep at night knowing they’ve treated someone that way? And, let me tell you, I’ve had my fair share of this sort of indifferent treatment. As we all know, many companies have been outsourcing their customer service and tech departments overseas in order to save money. The downfall of this beneficial move for the company, is the inevitable lack of quality service for the customer.

I’ve experienced this first hand. A year or so ago our new computer monitor kept flashing a bizarre error message and locking up when we switched between Windows users. I called the tech department for suggestions of how to fix the error.

An hour later I was nowhere, not because the problem with the computer was so hard to fix, but because the representative and I could barely understand one another. In fact, the final determination from the tech of how to fix the problem was to “quit switching users.” I ask you, how is the company providing helpful service to its customers with representative they can’t understand and solutions that get you nowhere?

Do you remember the controversy regarding one gentleman’s attempt to cancel his service with AOL? He had herd that AOL was difficult to deal with in that regard, so he recorded his telephone call with them.

During the nearly 30 minute call, the AOL representative repeatedly insisted that the gentleman was making a huge mistake by canceling his account, continually trying to hard sell him into staying. At one point the representative even asked the 30 year old man if he could speak to his father regarding the account! When the media got ahold of the recording, AOL was quick to respond by apologizing and saying the representative was fired.

Here’s the thing, all of these companies seem so apologetic for their employees’ behavior, claiming they never would condone such. But those employees are representatives of the company. They are hired and trained by the company.

Wouldn’t you agree that the company should be making every effort to make sure every single encounter a customer has with a representative is genuinely a nice experience? That’s part of running a successful business. Why else would the call be “monitored or recorded for quality assurance.” Clearly that statement is rarely true, otherwise AOL would have been aware of this hard sell representative long before the media.

The businesses who don’t emphasize quality customer service are only harming themselves in the long run, as word of mouth quickly spreads and other potential customers go somewhere else to get the quality service they expect and deserve.

How did we ever get to a point that customer service was no longer part of the deal, but became an “extra” that we are never guaranteed, no matter what we pay? Today’s businesses need to get a clue and realize that they only way they can succeed is to treat their customers like kings and queens.

Do you have a customer service horror story? Please share it with us.

Related Readings:
• AA Apologizes After Passengers Stuck on Plane for 9 Hours

Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
How Department Divisions Can Hurt Customer Relations
Differentiate Your Business With Quality Customer Service
Advertising Quality in Your Product
A Bad Customer Service Experience
What Successful People Do – Part 2

By Michelle Cramer
Thursday, January 17th, 2019 @ 12:05 AM CDT

Customer Service |