View Full Version : Is customer service getting worse?

9-2-11, 10:36am
It seems like as time goes by, I have to deal more and more with mistakes, poor quality, poor customer service, or complexity from companies.

I almost wished I lived at the top of a mountain, away from civilization, able to provide completely for myself. Well, maybe it would have to be a tropical island ;)

Some things I find particularly bad are companies that make laptops or other electronics. They don't honor warranties and their customer service is in other countries, unable to do anything to help.

Also, healthcare - trying to get the right prescriptions, calling up to get claims right, getting enough doctor time for them to do a decent job.:sick: And with medical stuff, if there is a mistake it's hard to tell who made the mistake. So you are calling the doctor's office, the insurance company, the pharmacy, etc, to try to figure it out.

Even just shopping - trying to get the correct price to ring up at the cash register.

I seem to spend a lot of time calling up companies, and spending time trying to anticipate what they might do wrong, and think up strategies that would optimize their doing things right.

What's going on?

Also, how come companies don't make mistakes in my favor?

9-2-11, 11:34am
I don't notice things getting worse -- there have always been mistakes made now and then, and bureaucratic red tape to wade through. Some things have gotten better (with the advent of electronic tracking of things like warranties, etc.) but some things have seemed slower (like call centers....unless they're outsourced to Rajasthan)

Many corporations have cut customer service departments to the bone since the recession. One major online company I work with has had their call center staff reduced by half, while the volume of calls is the same or higher. It seems that they might choose to re-direct some of their top executives obscene bonuses to providing better customer service and better living situations for their employees, but that's too much to ask I suppose.

The only weapon we really have as consumers is to document everything meticulously, complain loudly and to the right people (not the guys on the front line usually), and don't give our money to companies and people who a) treat us poorly, and b) treat their employees poorly.

9-2-11, 12:55pm
There is a cost incentive in getting people needing customer service (especially things like warranties and health insurance claims) to give up.

9-2-11, 1:30pm
I very much agree that customer service as we once knew it has declined. I think it is due to the sheer number of humans out there trying to interact about minute details. I think technology has both helped and hindered the process. I am absolutely amazed when I actually reach a human being who is able to help with an issue. I love that my city has a 311 number one can call, speak to someone locally, ask anything related to municipal issues and almost always have the problem solved.

9-2-11, 2:03pm
It's definitely been an incentive for me to do business -- where I can -- with smaller, more local firms who have a vested interest in the community. The experience is so much more pleasant and personal.

With something huge like insurances or investments, it's not that easy. I find myself trying very hard to answer my own questions before seeking customer service. Perhaps that too is what they're hoping for, related to creaker's post.

Sad Eyed Lady
9-2-11, 2:50pm
Yes, in a nutshell, customer service has declined greatly in my opinion, and in my lifetime. I think about this often and believe part of it is because there is no simple way to do business any longer. Even with doctors, as you pointed out Life_Is_Simple. There was a time when you had a family doctor who knew you, your family, what might even going on in your life because he took time to know and this made him better able to serve his patients. He didn't have a for-profit corporation breathing down his neck, telling him how much time he could spend with a patient. Likewise, on down the ladder to stores, pharmacies, restaurants, and so on - if it is a chain establishment then in most cases you are just a number and a dollar. The faster they can get rid of you the better, then move on the either the next person, or in some cases, back to having fun (talking, texting, goofing off) rather than having to work for the pay they will receive. In the day when local shops in the community were owned and staffed by individual people in the same community where you lived, everything came back to the owner there. Not "I just do what they tell me to do" from who knows where. If you are a college student working in say Wal-Mart or Target etc. for minimum wage, basically putting in time, it doesn't matter at all to you if you are nice to a customer or go out of your way to help. You don't really care if a customer comes back or not - there is no personal involvement or responsibility, or very little anyway. On the other hand, if you are the owner and a customer isn't satisfied, then it makes a difference to you if they come back or not. You know, there actually used to be motto: "the customer is always right". Believe it or not!

pony mom
9-3-11, 9:14pm
The few times I visited a dermatologist, I felt as if I was interrupting their day. One barely glanced at my face before writing out a prescription for my rosacea.

The salon/spa where I work has been doing less business over the past year or so, like most businesses. They won't spend the money on hiring another receptionist so the owner or her husband will work the desk----they are absolutely horrible! Friendly, yes, but haven't a clue on how to book appointments. They constantly make mistakes and he especially will not turn anyone away, so a few times I've had my massage appts. overlapping---how the heck am I supposed to work on two people at once? Most of the complaints we have had were due to their mistakes.

I think some businesses can cut corners to save money, but customer service has to be a priority.

9-4-11, 8:32am
This is one of my favorites that I have to share -- and it may tell more on me than the customer service agent! But it's still funny to me this day....
I was trying to book a frequent flier flight with United. They didn't have freebie seats for the particular flight I wanted, so I would call back every so often as it got closer in to see if anything would open up (I could see seats were still open online) -- I called quite a few times. The call center was overseas and the norm was for me to get a very helpful, polite person.

On one of my last attempts I got a guy that had either not been through enough training or maybe hadn't done too well in his English class or had terrible geography skills or no knowledge of his product or more likely a mix of all of the above.
It was very early in the morning and I must not have had my coffee yet...

Me: Are there any frequent flier seats on Flight xxx from Memphis to Denver on xx date?
Him: What is your departure city?
Me: Memphis.
Him: What is your departure city?
Me: Memphis, Tennessee
Him: Could you repeat that for me?
Me: Memphis, Tennessee
Him: Could you spell it for me?

Boy, did he have one heck of a yucky American story to tell at the water cooler!

9-4-11, 6:36pm
mtnlaurel - :laff: Apparently not everyone knows about Elvis. :cool:

9-4-11, 10:26pm
I actually think things are getting better than they were. At least when I go to local shops, even chains, the sales staff is much more friendly and helpful than before.

9-5-11, 5:33pm
Service (in the sense), the way I remember service as being 20-30 years ago, definitely isn't the same as service is today, and being the old-fashioned type that I am, I definitely notice the difference and struggle with it.

One of the biggest things I find with service today, is it's become very impersonal.

9-5-11, 6:28pm
I'm going to a new doctor next week. He charges $180 a visit, but allows 45 minutes for the visit. Broken into 15 min. increments, that's $60. They said that it's expensive, but they have a source for their blood testing that is around $20 per test. My whole point in saying this is that I think you can't really do a good job if your dr visit is only 15 minutes. You can't really get to the bottom of things. Hopefully the 45 minute format will help find answers.

domestic goddess
9-5-11, 7:37pm
I definitely know that service isn't the same as it was in the 40's and 50's, not because I was in the shopping or service force, but because my mom has told me about the days of having a kind of personal shopper in stores, where you went in, told them what you wanted, and they culled the shelves and racks selecting things (mostly clothing) for you to try. That's not for me; guess I'm more of a do-it-yourselfer. But I do wish people were more available in stores to answer questions. I try to always do my research before I go, but often little questions do come up. Often, though, the salespeople know less about the product than I do.
When it comes to doctors, it is essential to state your needs and expectations upfront. They are incredibly busy, because it is the insurance companies practicing medicine who have everything all bollixed up. So, go in prepared, with a list of what you want to ask. Don't expect them to read your mind! Everyone is different. Since I am a nurse, I don't want to hear all the beginning information about my illness; I either already know it or can look it up easily. But not everyone is at that place, and how will they know if you don't tell them?
But do ask until you understand!! Then tell them what you are doing, so you can correct anything that isn't clear to you. My db and I didn't know for years that our mother was taking her blood pressure before each dose of medication, and if her measurement was in an area she considered acceptable, she didn't take the med. Then no one could understand why her blood pressure was so unstable. When we found out, we were able to correct her misunderstanding, and it is mostly much better now.
Another thing to understand is that your dr. probably doesn't need all the detail you find so engrossing, after the first visit or two. Much of it he can do nothing about. If you notice that going out in the sun makes your rash worse, then don't do it, but don't think your dr. can do anything about the sun. It isn't easy to be a proactive patient, after many of us have been brainwashed for years to "just let the dr. take care of it." But it does make for better health care for us all.

9-5-11, 8:42pm
I was thinking about this topic just today after experiencing what might have been 'bad' customer service, but maybe it's me and I'm out of touch. We went to a big box office supply place to buy DH a new computer chair as his old one was giving him backaches. The flyer we had from them listed two chairs on sale that were within our budget and seemed ergonomically designed, which is what we wanted, so we drove to the store, in the next town, to check them out.

One of the chairs was in stock and on the floor, so DH could try it out. The other one-the one we were most interested in--was in stock, but not on the floor. They wanted to charge us $7.98 to put one together so my DH could try it out.

Hello? They were advertising these chairs on sale. Wasn't it their responsibility to have them on the floor assembled? Why should we pay to have assembled?

Anyhow, we were kind of taken aback at this...we ended up buying from them, but a different chair altogether. As we live in small town, they were kind of the only game in town, so to speak. But customer service? Seemed to us they hadn't grasped that concept too well.

9-14-11, 1:09pm
I currently work in retail, at Canadian Tire. It's a huge store. It seems to me that people have become more impatient, they are less willing to wait for the right person with all the information they need, and will expect me to know every product. I'm still new, I've only been there 2 months. I'm just now at the point where I know where stuff is, and I can find 'people who know'. Unfortuneately, I get frustrated sometimes with my limitations and inexperience, and I come across as a bit rude. I wish I could apologise personally, but please have a bit of patience with us retail staff. For the most part, we are trying our best.

9-15-11, 11:11pm
canadianrose and harmony - this is my experience as well. What I see and hear from people in service positions is them having to repeat rote greetings and phrases, smile and be pleasant with the most picky and rude customers, and then hope they don't get anything negative against them in the online survey provided on the receipt or website. And don't forget most telephone service people are timed on every call, and if your phone time is longer than average it won't be long before you'll be shown the door.
All this for barely above minimum wage pay and no benefits.
And people complaining about less customer service should take a look around: there's far less employees, so of course they can't give you the one-on-one treatment. Don't blame them, blame their employers who've sacrificed customer service for profits.

9-16-11, 12:42am
canadianrose and harmony - this is my experience as well. What I see and hear from people in service positions is them having to repeat rote greetings and phrases, smile and be pleasant with the most picky and rude customers, and then hope they don't get anything negative against them in the online survey provided on the receipt or website. And don't forget most telephone service people are timed on every call, and if your phone time is longer than average it won't be long before you'll be shown the door.
All this for barely above minimum wage pay and no benefits.
And people complaining about less customer service should take a look around: there's far less employees, so of course they can't give you the one-on-one treatment. Don't blame them, blame their employers who've sacrificed customer service for profits.Very well put, I could not agree more.

9-16-11, 8:30am
When I worked at IKEA, the customers were notoriously rude. One coworker was even assaulted and chased through the store. People get very angry when their desires (perceived as needs, I guess) are not met instantly, on their terms. I chalk it up to the impact of so much sped up media, so many consumer expectations.

It's easy to blame the big box model, and I'm not sure where the balance lies. We live in a small town and we try to shop on our island, pay more, etc., but sometimes the attitudes and the inflated prices of the local merchants send us out to big box land. Do love all of our local farmstands, though--they are the best in all ways:)

9-21-11, 3:40pm
I don't think anyone wants to work in customer service. I am a travel agent, but I work in a call center (from home, but still) and I hate it when clients refer me to as a customer service agent. It seems demeaning. I am travel agent!! Anywho, from my experience customer service agents are overeducated and bored by their jobs and as a result service suffers.

9-21-11, 3:58pm
Yes! I wanted to see if I could reduce the cost of my long distance phone service. I am currently with AT&T I had switched to them from Pioneer Telephone about three months ago and my monthly costs were about $70 more per month. AT&T has a flat rate long distance service for $25 a month. I had some questions on it and first tried their online chat. It is a computerized chat and it had no idea what I was talking about. I then after 10 min of searching found a telephone # to call. I called after going getting the run around from the computer voice it said they would get a live person. After being on hold for 8 min and still no live person I hung up.

I called Pioneer in 10 seconds was talking to a live person and switched back to Pioneer in a total of 2 min. I had my AT&T bill to compare rates with Pioneer and the Pioneer rates were less than 1/2 that of AT&T.

9-28-11, 11:21am
I have had T-mobile for my cell carrier for a few years and have been very happy with their customer service. Now it sucks. They have outsourced much of it to India. I feel for these people in India because they have hard job and I try to be polite to them but they just aren't very good.

Sad Eyed Lady
9-28-11, 2:30pm
After my step father passed away I was left to deal with the aftermath of reporting to different places. Because of some of his health problems, (and age), he was required to take a drivers test every 6 months or so to retain his license. I received notification of renewal time in the mail several months after his passing and just ignored it since it wasn't relevant any longer. A few months after that I received another notice saying his license were suspended or something like that because he had not replied to the notice. So, I called the number on this correspondence to tell them the circumstances. I got a real person, and the conversation went something like this: "My step father has received this notification from you and I am calling to let you know that he has passed away". "Okay, we'll take care of it.". Then she hung up! I was sitting there holding the phone in my hand thinking, "but you don't know his name, SS#, anything!". How strange!