Everyone has experienced rudeness from a customer service representative or a monolithic company somewhere. The cumulative effect of bad customer service can cause many problems. So perhaps it’s time to get back to basics as in small town America.
Companies talk about putting the customer first and taking care of customer needs. These are often part of company logos, mottos and training. Poor customer service is said to create poor business relationships, and so it is accented. But does it happen?
The monolithic cell phone business is a sterling example of an industry reported to have problems with billing errors and customer service. According to the Better Business Bureau and AARP, that have reported on this matter, statistics revealed more than three years ago cell phone service and supplies is the most complained about business in the United States.
With the cell phone industry, trouble can begin when having to initially wait in a long line, then meeting with a new representative who may be recently employed because of turnover in the industry. Details about special fees and charges may not be explained.
For any problem, the customer must contact the company, usually not the local representative because questions are often answered by major offices. Setup of phone service and bills may present the first problems. With either problem, getting phone function or bill paying, there may be problems. As an example, a research study found 80% of businesses receive “accidental” over charges. Those who don’t take the time to review bills, lose money.
An automated system that changes regularly with different messages becomes the avenue for customer contact. Announcements often declare, “Listen carefully. Our system has recently changed” so once one masters the system, one must begin a new learning curve. Still there are other challenges that include communicating with people who accents present barriers to communication. These challenges are not just in the United States, but have been found to be in other countries like England, France, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Correcting errors takes time from income-producing tasks. Add this time to the value of hourly rate of any given individual in business plus the actual errors on bills, and what happens to the customer?
Poor customer service has been shown to affect the bottom line. Once someone is caught in the system those hours increase as one tries to get the problems solved. Some folks underline the value of good service as being paramount to a business success, of any kind. For example it was found “that one nurse in the ED [emergency department] with a bad attitude can cost you $250,000 in lost revenues," according to Liz Jazwiec, RN, who heads up the Oak Lawn, IL-based consulting firm Liz inc.
Financial stresses, however, aren’t the only negative customer impact. There are psychological stresses as well. When one spends large amounts of time with little or no problem solution, the normal response is to get angry, worry, and feel stress. Some of that comes from myriad mistakes from the clerk at the grocery store, to the cell phone company to the rebate promised that never arrives. Consequently poor customer service is costing us our health. A professional survey found 87% of respondents maintained they often feel stress when faced with poor customer service, according to stress expert, Dr Roger Henderson, consultant adviser. He adviser goes on to say, “The result is potentially serious physical and psychological symptoms – such as high blood pressure, palpitations, headaches, nausea, mood swings and anxiety – with a consequent impact on our relationships with friends and family.”
Businesses believe they save money with automation and with distance from direct consumer contact. On the other hand, as those who have examined the issue of poor customer impact and its negative impacts, as we each multiply the time spent in correcting mistakes, working with companies who don’t respond, and waiting for responses, it has been found all this stress adds to financial woes and health concerns. In the medical services industry, it has been found that the number of billing errors has increased dramatically. The time it takes waiting for customer service to respond and correct these errors is stressful itself.
How does that impact our present status and future? Lack of good customer service is said to increase both apathy and stress. It happens with businesses and with government agencies as well. It keeps problems from being solved when people feel increased social distance from those who are to give good service.
Where might the pattern of good customer service remain? Many small towns have few customer service problems, unless they have to deal outside their geographical areas. That personal touch and courtesy that has been shown to work well helps maintain good customer service.
Natchitoches, Louisiana, a town that struggles in the present economy, remains relatively economically intact. That’s helped because of good customer service and therefore fewer stresses. J.W. Scarborough, owner of S & S Flower Shop, maintains, for example, he ordinarily gets good customer service from those connected with the cell phone companies in Natchitoches. Veronica Conley of The Hall Tree, a women’s clothing shop, agrees and also says, “A lot depends upon the attitude and how people make their complaints. It isn’t just the business that made a mistake involved in communication. How a person talks to a customer service representative may make a lot of difference in the outcome.”
Good customer service, as occurs in small towns, could serve us all well. The business, the service, the educational system, the government and other entities dedicated to caring for customers first might be the real catalyst for social and economic stability according to those who have examined these issues. Hopefully, good customer service as occurs in Natchitoches, Louisiana will be used as a model to help solve our myriad crises.