Why Customer Service is Terrible

Posted by Charles M Cooper on Friday, August 7, 2009

Here is a question for all our ABC readers:


Why does customer service stink so badly these days?


I mean, all you hear is how customer service, which is the one real way you can stand apart from your competition, is terrible. In a recent New York Times article, Chicago small business owner Jay Goltz discusses the three reasons he has come up with for the terrible state of customer service. He blames health insurance, crazy pricing and the lack of a real merchant class in this country. Here is what he has to say:


Because of the high cost of health insurance, many companies have opted to hire a lot of part-time staff, which allows them to avoid having to offer benefits. This creates a problem: It is difficult enough to train full-time people. Having them there part-time and having a huge turnover makes it all the more difficult.


Meanwhile, in the retail world, pricing has gone mad. It used to be that stores would have four sales a year to get rid of stale or seasonal merchandise and to promote business. These days, stores have “crazy once in a lifetime sales” every two weeks. When you have manic pricing, up one day, down the next, it wreaks havoc on customer service. When the sale is on, you don’t have enough staff. When the sale is off, the staff stands around and complains about the slow business.


And then there’s the issue of who’s running the show. Where have all the merchants gone? Their kids are lawyers, hedge-fund managers, computer programmers, professors and a thousand other things. The people running the stores today come from all different backgrounds. Many of them did not work their way up from the sales floor or have generations of family history and training to prepare them for the job. Perhaps they are even over-educated.


So, according to Goltz, poor customer service comes from companies avoiding high health insurance rates by hiring part-timers with high turnover rates, having too many sales, and being run by people who really don’t know what they are doing. It all makes sense, but what we want to know is whether this is your experience.


I invite you to send in your comments and tell all of us what you think poor customer service stems from, and I will choose the best ones for a subsequent article.

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Charles M Cooper

Charles Cooper is the Web Editor for America’s Best Companies. He came to ABC with nearly twenty years of business and technology writing and editorial experience. In addition to ABC, Charles has been tapped to be a freelance business writer with the upcoming American edition of The China Daily, has served as a writer for HowStuffWorks.com and LovetoKnow.com and as senior editor for Gear Technology magazine. Contact Charles.

Tags: small business, customer service, health insurance, parttime employees

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Reader Comments

Monday, August 10, 2009 at 1:26 PM
Josh Thompson says:

Customer Service is 100% on how a successful business stays above the red.

Josh Thompson

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 at 9:26 PM
Jerry Robertson says:

The reasons mentioned above are correct. In addition, many businesses look to cut expenses as much as possible. The first thing to go is payroll. I do not have a problem cutting payroll, but many businesses have too much help in the morning and too little on the nights and weekends.

Another reason for poor customer service it is not stressed every day. Also, many employees will not take the extra steps for a regular customer to make them happy. However, the same employees will often do much more for their best customers. If all employees treted all their customers like their best customers, the service and sales would be fantastic.

Thursday, September 24, 2009 at 4:24 PM
Michael Nodine says:

As a Small Business owner and a spouse of a Customer Service Rep of 20+ years I can tell you it is more about the CSR's attitude toward the customer than it is about the business itself. You need solid business policies, But more importently you need well trained CSR's that can address any and all customer concerns without compromising your policies. Whether they are Full or Part time benifits or no benifits and reminding them that without happy customers there will be no business and without buiness there will be no JOB. A successful business will grow in time so the more money it makes the more money the owner can spend on it's employees for higher wages,health benifits ect. It's pretty simple train you CSR's Well.

Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 9:36 AM
Larry W. Long says:

To whom it may concern,
For most of my customer service experiences, I am saddled with talking to a foreign person, usually of mideast descent. Too many of these people cannot speak English well enough to effectively communicate. It becomes frustrating to re-explain the condition one is attempting to convey, over and over. They work cheap and are usually in their own country, without any concern for health care costs for the hiring company. Cheap labor most certainly produces an inferior product. And in this case, that theory is proved. Everyone to whom I talk about this subject wants to communicate with someone who can speak and understand English! Bring these damn jobs back to this country so that we can accomplish this.
Sales, sales sales. It has gotten to the point where I don't pay much attention to them. Repeated going-out-of- business sales, inventory clearance sales, overstocked sales, etc. have numbed my mind. It's too much. It rather makes me distrust the store and its business practices.
I have not found incompetent store or business ownership to be any more of a problem now, then it was 40 years ago. There will always be idiots and clueless people in positions of authority, ownership and management. We just have to deal with it.

Larry W. Long

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