Breakdown Dead Ahead: The Decline in Customer Service

I’m sure you’ve observed as I have, all too painfully, the steep decline in customer service over the past several years across virtually every industry. In this article, I dive deep into some recent experiences and observations on this topic. Certainly one of the reasons is that there aren’t enough employees wanting to work, let alone to provide good customer service. A related issue is that many people with expertise have either retired or moved on to other better paying ventures. It seems to be endemic at this point; the exact opposite of collaboration between companies and consumers. Your thoughts welcome!

Read your article. My own particular snafu is bank-rage. I have had so many dismal experiences with banks that I champion crypto. Made me think of some things that might be relevant to your article.

The first is that you are not always the customer even when you think you are, therefore there isn’t any good customer service towards you. In social media you are not the customer; you are the product. In fact, you are the slave labor that produces the content for the social media masters. You are literally held captive by them. Okay. Now, take the banks. You are not the customer of the bank. You may think you are. They lead you to believe that you are but you’re not. Because of some arcane law involving the settling of funds… when you give your money to the bank it is ‘literally’ no longer your money but theirs. So, fundamentally, you are not the customer of the banks. You are simply a means to an end - getting your money - but not the end in and of itself. Now, if you have hundreds of millions of dollars to spend on services, well, that’s different. Then your are a customer! Otherwise, you’re just a means to and end. In some cases, you are the beta tester of a new product or service and not the customer, either. So beware of situations when you’re not the customer.

The other problem, I think is that there isn’t a single point of responsibility. Instead, the organizations are set up to delegate and diversify responsibility until it doesn’t have a locus anymore. A bit like our complex supply chains. This issue is well documented in Marvin Harris’, “Why Nothing Works.” There’s an anecdote in the book that I remember. Why is it that when you buy a new coat it isn’t uncommon for the buttons to come off early on? Compare that to an eskimo who’s partner has sewn the buttons on their coat; having a button come off could mean the difference between life and death. In other words, someone takes ultimate responsibility to make sure that the damn button won’t come off. Otherwise, when there are too many people involved each of whom have a very negligible sliver of responsibility for a tiny piece of the jigsaw then you see a lack of responsibility. The book is a lot more illuminating than that, though, so I recommend it.

The third thing is that we’ve just come out of Covid lock-downs worldwide and I notice that (in the West at least) people are less patient and indulgent of others. It seems like we’ve all developed some kind of collective psychosis - entitlement-itiss. We can’t wait for other people. We can’t be understanding. We can’t accept their limitations. We fly off the handle at the slightest thing. I’m thinking of all the videos that were posted of shoppers at Target and Walmart going irate when things didn’t go their way. It’s as if all the civility was leached out of us by our collective trauma. And I can understand why. We are all collectively suffering from trauma even if we don’t want to admit it. We are angry at our lack of control. We feel helpless and we don’t like that feeling. We’ve also lost millions of people in the pandemic. This will have consequences.

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Boy there’s a lot to unpack here; very good insights which I generally concur with wholeheartedly!! I will def read “Why Nothing Works”. Ever the optimist, I always want to believe that people are wired to do the right thing, but with all that we’re experiencing that just be delusional thinking at this point. I want to have hope for humanity even in these challenging times, I look for it and praise it wherever I come across true examples of people demonstrating patience and concern for their fellow man/woman.