Customer Service Expectations are Broken

Authored by Kayla Brehm

Published on August 21, 2014

“We overcharged you $100 for your dinner for two? This is important to us, we’ll have our busboy with you momentarily. Please stand here and wait.”

Sounds familiar right?



What about this:

“We charged you $186 for cable and internet that you didn’t buy? This is important to us, we’ll have one of our customer service representatives with you momentarily. Please hold.”

Sound about right?

The depressing thing is, these statement are functionally identical. You have a problem that is by no means life threatening, but is incredibly annoying because someone paid to make your life easier just made it harder.

Similarly, the person tasked with solving the problem in these two scenarios has no personal stake in the outcome, is under-trained, and, likely cares more about not getting screamed at by a stranger for something they had no part in than they do about empathetically and quickly correcting the error that was made.

The difference: The Cleveland Cavaliers will bring a Super Bowl to Cleveland (see what I did there?) before a restaurant sends a busboy to deal with a customer who has been errantly charged. At most restaurants, the owner or the highest ranking employee in the restaurant will rush over, grab the bill, remove the offending items, and in many cases further discount the meal, or provide a free dessert for the inconvenience.

Why is it that we expect to be taken care of by people with ownership and empathy, who quickly solve our problems at small businesses, but at the upper echelons (both size and price wise) of business, it is seemingly acceptable to put indifferent, un-incentivized, underpaid people in front of customers who have been inconvenienced by the company in question?

Customer service, as far as how it’s viewed in business, has a major cultural problem that needs to be solved. Customer service is currently viewed as a necessary but inconvenient cost. To high level executives, customer service should be an absolute priority and source of pride. The people tasked with responding to consumers who have experienced an issue, or need help in some way, should be held in the same light as marquis sales reps. Indeed, customer service all stars may even be worth more in the long run than the aforementioned sales reps.

Steve Jobs was known to answer customer emails. Apple has a market cap closing in on $600 billion. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is known for making Amazon extremely customer-centric and also answering customer emails. Their market cap is $154 billion. Coincidence? I think not.

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