Whatever Happened to Customer Service?

Shop assistant

Richard Brody reminisces on the bygone days of great service – and offers a few modern day examples.

In the “old days”, when many stores in numerous industries were what we would consider “mom and pop” stores, whenever you entered the store, you were greeted by your name, and often you would enjoy some personal time conversing with the owner.

In today’s world of few small stores and many large stores, much of that personal touch is ignored, and there seems to have been a departure from the concept of serving the customer and his needs.

In my town, there are a number of cleaners, some large and some much smaller. While the larger ones are often lower priced and have faster turnaround time, I still prefer using a small “Chinese Laundry” that has been in this area since 1947. Every time you go in, they know who you are and they chit-chat just enough (enough to be friendly and welcoming while not so much as to waste your time).

As you enter, even before you hand in your claim ticket, they are already retrieving your cleaning, and pay particular attention to detail. While I would be very hesitant to bring some of my better custom made shirts to the other cleaners, I don’t hesitate to bring my shirts here. They combine superior customer service with quality.

When I go into my favorite cell phone store in town, they fully understand and cater to my needs. They are patient when I don’t understand something or one of my kids invariably lose or destroy their phone. They never try to “nickel and dime” me to death, and I never hesitate to refer others to them.

Contrast that with the cell phone store nightmare stories that I have heard from others where someone tells me about the great “deal” they were offered, only to vehemently complain shortly thereafter when the inevitable complication or problem occurs.

I know that my store, which has been in business far longer than most in its industry, does more business, more repeat business, and is more successful than most of the others. Their commitment to their customers is what sets them out from the rest.

Many of us have heard auto mechanic horror stories, how someone was either lied to, overcharged, charged for something that wasn’t needed or done, or given shoddy service.

Again, in my town, I have been fortunate enough to have found an honest mechanic who stands behind his work, and goes the extra mile for his customers. While my mechanic may or may not always be the least expensive, to me having the peace of mind and honest service is far more important than shopping around simply for price. Why aren’t there more like these?

All of us have gone into stores, offices, department stores, warehouse stores, etc., where we are either unable to find any assistance, or the assistance is rude, pushy or otherwise unpleasant.

Smart stores, regardless of their size, understand the importance of customer service, yet few make it the priority it is.

Just think about that the next time you are placed on hold with a recording that tells you to type in your account number, etc., only to be asked all that same information once you are “lucky” enough to get a live person on the other end of the line.

You might just ask yourself: “What ever happened to customer service?”

About the Author

Richard Brody has over 30 years consultative sales, marketing, training, managerial and operations experience. Richard is a Senior Consultant with RGB Consultation Services, an Ecobroker, a Licensed Buyers Agent (LBA) and Licensed Salesperson in NYS, in real estate. Richard Brody has owned businesses, been a Chief Operating Officer, a Chief Executive Officer, and a Director of Development, as well as a consultant.

  • Michael Krummel April 10, 2019, 5:02 am

    This answer seems so obvious to me, but I rarely see it mentioned. If you look at wages tied to productivity, they often correlate. An employee, who innovates is usually rewarded as well. Come up with a way to save the company money, you will get a raise. Sell more products, earn a higher commission.

    What is the value of good customer service to an employee? It is a metric, which is entirely divorced from incentive. It used to be the owner of that bygone hardware store factored customer service into the wages of his employees, because he had to be able to trust an advancing employee with the brand it took him decades to build.

    Walmart doesn’t need to trust an associate with their brand, because they pay marketing people for that. The entire service industry sees labor as a cost to be reduced, and customer service is the casualty of this.

    A 17 year old kid standing behind the counter while also working the drive thru is certainly not better off during a late night rush. Her stress level is significantly increased during this period, but her pay remains locked near minimum wage. She will not be rewarded for handling this rush by going above and beyond for the customers increasing this stress.

    Whether it is the consumer or management, who refuses to attach monetary value to customer service, is a matter of debate, but none the less, customer service is not a marketable skill set. If it were, you would see companies competing to improve in this area.

  • Eddo January 4, 2022, 12:44 am

    Very few businesses answer the phone anymore and yet they dare to use the word service. Government agencies are not much better. Deliveries are late or non existent and no one is accountable for anything. So many people are scapegoating covid-19 for their lack of competence. A

Leave a Comment