Marketplace Scratch Pad

The customer is always…

Scott Jagow Nov 12, 2009

Last? Lost? In line? On hold? I did a story a few years ago about how customer service was going in the toilet. I asked why. I was told that businesses were doing so well, they didn’t need to focus on customer service. Well, here we are. Businesses are desperate. The economy’s bad. And customer service still stinks?

Maybe the two go hand-in-hand. Maybe once you decide that customer service isn’t important, and you have 4 employees patrolling 100,000 square feet of floor space, you’ve backed yourself into a corner. You did more with less when times were good, so now, you’re trying to do even more with even less.

Sprint-Nextel, which is consistently near the top of the Customer Service Hall of Shame list said this week it would lay off 2,000-2,500 employees this quarter. But:

“The company is taking this action in a careful manner to ensure that there is no impact on the improved customer experience that has been reflected in much higher levels of satisfaction in customer surveys and in independent performance tests.”

Dilbert responded this way:

On the Marketplace Morning Report this week, LA Times business columnist David Lazarus pointed out that Best Buy has launched a new campaign to tout its customer satisfaction:

I think because Best Buy knows very well that customer service and customer satisfaction has become miserable throughout the retail sector. All you’ve got to do is look out on the showroom floor and see how confused and perplexed and frustrated so many consumers are. The question then becomes: Why aren’t more businesses doing something about it?

Could it be that customers are making things worse? More from Lazarus:

You talk to the marketing experts, and they say they American consumer, right now, doesn’t really place consumer service as highly as he or she once did. Instead, it’s all about low, low, low prices, and so what we’re seeing this holiday season is this massive price war that’s breaking out.

Alright, your turn. Have you given up on customer service and only care about the price? Or are you voting with your feet and rewarding good service even if you have to pay more? Are you seeing any change in service, for better or worse?

I’m a sucker for a good/bad customer service story…

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