Businesses Pay for Lack of Customer Service

Nancy Dodd, MPW, MFA, is editor of the Graziadio Business Report and an adjunct professor of screenwriting.

nancy doddCustomer service has been on my mind lately, or I should say a lack thereof. Business executives budget fortunes to figure out how to attract customers while the customers they lose out the front door go unnoticed. It seems that one of the best budget expenditures a company could make would be to train their employees on how to treat customers.

For example, I moved to a new neighborhood and on the way home was fortuitously placed a grocery store from a large chain that I thought would be ideal for me to stop at to buy a few groceries. Now even though this wasn’t a prime area, it was on a busy street and it is a major grocery chain. I made my way through the panhandlers and into the store, did my shopping and went to the checkout stand. The lady in front of me was buying a fifth of some sort of liquor that she thought was on sale. The lady and the cashier got into an argument over the price of the bottle—I distracted myself with magazines on the newsstand. The lady moved on—I didn’t notice whether she left with or without her purchase—and my transaction began. Another employee, who I took to be a supervisor, walked up to the cashier and told her, “That lady called you a ‘b—-‘” [I didn’t hear the word clearly]. The cashier was incensed. The supervisor nodded, sighed as though her job was such a burden, and said, “Go ahead.” The cashier left in the middle of my transaction and went after the lady to do who knows what, leaving me standing there with my mouth open, while the supervisor took over the transaction. It just seemed wrong on so many levels. No, I didn’t continue to shop there. I drive way out of my way to another store from another chain. Granted this is an extreme case of bad customer service.

Then there was the time I was flying from somewhere back to Los Angeles with a stop in Chicago on “ATA” airlines, you remember them…Our flight was delayed because they had loaded the luggage wrong and had to reload it. When we got to Chicago, with a changeover in passengers, they had to unload and reload the baggage again. We could see them picking up the luggage and slamming it into the cargo hold. One of the customers yelled out, “That’s my bag!” as we watched the luggage tram run over a bag and then back up over it again. Didn’t I hear something about a bankruptcy

Or how many times have you rushed to the bank or the post office on your lunch hour, like everyone else does, to find a long line and two tellers. Wouldn’t you think they’d plan their lunch hours around peak customer times?

The worst ones are the sales representatives and clerks and receptionists that when you enter their establishment they glare at you as though your whole purpose in stopping by was to ruin their day, or they ignore you while they carry on conversations with other employees. If you have a question or a need, you get the feeling that you’re stupid and your purpose is to provide them with a paycheck, and their purpose is to be unhelpful and be rid of you as quickly as possible.

Contrast that to the recent experience of a colleague of mine who took a class to China where the hotel management sent a team to meet the group at the train, transported them to the hotel, then they were greeted by a line of ten to a dozen hotel employees—from the manager to the chef to the bus boys—who eagerly awaited to shake hands, give them their room keys, and escort them to breakfast. When the group of students left, they were given extra baggage handlers and box lunches for the return train ride.

Sure you pay for service, but who pays for lack of service? Your business, because you lose all the customers like me who aren’t going to complain, we are just going to go elsewhere.


Related in the Graziadio Business Report

Calculating the Strategic Value of Customer Satisfaction by Chic Fojtik, PhD

Cultivating the Customer Asset by William Bleuel, PhD

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Graziadio Business Review is an online journal that delivers relevant business information and analysis for business, government, and non-profit managers. From accounting and finance to ethics and work/life balance, the Graziadio Business Review extends current business debates in new directions that you can use to advance your business and professional career.
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