What happened to the service in Customer Service?
Picture this, if you will…
Once upon a time, in a long forgotten world, a typical day off might look something like this:
A trip to the garage where an attendant would fill your car with petrol for you. A quick walk around the local high street to visit the greengrocer, butcher, baker & florist where you could easily request exactly what you needed and know that they would cater to your every requirement (that really lean bit of steak at the back / 8 particularly ripe bananas etc). Perhaps on a special occasion, even a trip to your tailor or local dressmaker who knew you by name and had your exact measurements to hand. All carried out with human interaction & your customer satisfaction in mind.
Fast forward a couple of decades and what do we face now?
We fill up our own cars with fuel & pay at the pump. We go to one supermarket where we scan, pack & operate the till ourselves, from whatever choice is available on the shelves. We order clothes online and have them delivered to our door, hoping that they will live up to the image on the website. We check our bank balance on line, read our own meters for our utilities, and go to restaurants where we select food from rotating conveyor belts (I've even been to one steakhouse where diners cook their food themselves on heated rocks, no need for a chef!)
So what happens when we face an issue? Years ago, we'd go down to the shop, speak to the owner, and be met with genuine consideration & concern whilst they tried to amend the situation in a satisfactory way. Nowadays, we spend inordinate amounts of time online hunting desperately for a number to ring, only to be led down a quagmire of phone menu options, all whilst being charged a premium rate. And even if you do get through to an agent, there's no guarantee that you'll receive anything that could be described as 'service'.
In short, we have become an Automation Nation. Yes, things get done quicker, and sometimes it's really handy to be able to transfer a balance on your bank account at 10pm from the comfort of your sofa. But at what cost? Speed & self-service isn't everything. It's only beneficial if there is someone at the end of the phone to provide assistance if you have a query or encounter a problem. Someone accountable who will step up and ensure that you receive the service you have paid for. Sadly, consumers are increasingly finding that companies shirk their responsibility to provide an acceptable level of customer care. It's rapidly becoming a culture of 'serve yourself, solve it yourself'. The harsh reality is that we are faceless & nameless consumers in a world where all that matters to businesses is targets and profit. Customer care has long been left behind.
Imagine if things continue as they are: where will we be in 20 years time? Will supermarket cashiers exist anymore? Will there even be a bank on the corner of our local high street? If it's hard enough to get companies to listen to us now, how difficult will it be then to exercise our consumer rights?
It's a sobering thought…