I was recently making an exchange at a local store that is part of a national chain. As I approached the service counter, I was greeted by the associate (let's call her Sue), and my exchange was promptly started. There were two other employees behind the counter, talking. When the phone rang, Sue asked if I would could wait a second as she answered the phone. Several people got into line behind me, all while the two other employees behind the counter continued to speak with one another. I continued to wait patiently while the person on the phone was given priority. After several minutes, Sue completed the call and got back to working on my exchange when the phone again rang. Want to guess what happened?
Customer service is a huge part of what drives the success of a business. It can make or break a company, even if the any product they sell is superior. A quick visit to several sights around the internet reveal the power of good customer service (link).
Over the past year, there's been a lot of talk about the service industry and how it was affected by the pandemic. Many people had hours cut, profits diminished, and jobs lost. Now, as people return to work, the service industry is struggling to find people to fill these jobs, as pay is considered low, unemployment benefits generous, and attitudes about employment in the service industry has changed.
A perfect example is how the profession of education is valued, at least financially. I can think of few other jobs that put in the hours, the dedication, and the skills and emotions that a teacher does, and yet many feel we undervalue their contribution by not paying them enough. (As a former teacher, I must say I agree).
One thing that hasn't, however, is the public's response to customer service. We expect it to be good, courteous, and effective. When it isn't, we often shop elsewhere. But very, very often, we don't reward good service with good wages.
We're offered discounts if we provide customer feedback, can leave reviews anonymously, and are even asked on Facebook Marketplace if a transaction went well by giving it a starred rating.
As a service-only provider, I have had clients ask for a discount for my services. In certain circumstances, I do so. I'm unsure if it is because people don't find value in a service, or would prefer their money goes towards something they can hold, but if you look around, the service industry is often seen as "negotiable." It is actually baffling, given how much customer service can affect a business's bottom line.
Will things change? Who knows. Only time will tell.
Do you have thoughts on this? if so, I'd love to hear them.