Customer service not a priority

Have you ever felt frustrated with a company’s customer service and wondered how that could be happening?

Have you ever felt frustrated with a company’s customer service and wondered how that could be happening?

Have you ever had a lost bag with Air Canada and had to spend hours on the phone trying to resolve the issue?

Or have you simply been treated as if you didn’t matter at a restaurant or a store?

If the answer is yes, you are not alone. A survey conducted in nine different countries found that 40 per cent of Canadians believe businesses are paying less attention to customer service – more than any other country surveyed.

Out of all respondents, only two per cent said they thought companies exceeded their customer service expectations. Two per cent!

The survey was conducted by American Express, which operates in Canada as Amex Bank of Canada and Amex Canada Inc., between Aug. 19 and Sept. 2, 2014.

What is not surprising is that 76 per cent of respondents said they’ve spent more with a company because of a “history of positive customer service.”

A great example of this is Overwaitea in Burns Lake. Maybe a competitor would have more options and cheaper prices (I didn’t actually research), but I keep going to Overwaitea simply because I am always asked how my day is going and if I found everything I was looking for. I always have a pleasant conversation with the cashiers and a positive experience overall.

But how about those times when you need assistance, when something went wrong or you simply have a question and people could not care less? What happened to “the customer always comes first” and at what point in time did we start paying less attention to customer service?

In business management schools across North America, students learn about the importance of prioritizing clients; companies hold seminars about it; and most people in customer service positions receive proper training. So why don’t we see good customer service more often?

Have we started accepting bad behaviour as normal? Or is customer service a cultural aspect of our society that cannot be easily changed?

It’s easy to believe customer service is a cultural thing when you visit places such as Japan. Japanese workers might be extremely unhappy about their lives or their jobs, but when you ask them a question, they will greet you with a huge smile and go out of their way to help you out (I am not sure this is the healthiest behaviour, but it certainly makes you think that people in the Western part of the world are not trying hard enough).

What about those times when you enter a shop and people will answer your questions with a “yes or no” response? First of all, if you entered a store, it means that you are looking for something. So if you are a shop owner, wouldn’t it make sense that you would try to make a sale by asking this person a few basic questions?

In my teenage years I worked in retail, and it was part of my responsibilities to always suggest an extra item for customers. For example, if the person bought a pair of jeans, our team of sale associates would suggest a pair of socks or a T-shirt. It sounds like a simplest idea, but you would be surprised with how many sales we ended up doing that way.

Considering that people who had bad experiences with customer service tend to badmouth the company to their friends, and people who had positive experiences will most likely return and spend more money, why aren’t all companies paying more attention to customer service? Why is this not an absolute priority?