Six Shocking Truths About Poor Customer Service (and How to Change It).

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Have you ever suffered at the hands of poor customer service?  It happens like this:

You call up a company only to stop at the automated menu board.  You don’t know which department to contact.  Maybe the option you need isn’t even listed. Additionally, they don’t give you a choice to speak to an operator.  In times past, you could press “zero” to speak to a real person. However, that has changed. All you want to do is talk to a human being, but you are forced to deal with a chat box. And often, a person who clearly does not speak English as a first language.

Customer service is on a downward spiral in America.  I don’t have to convince you because you have experienced it, and probably more than once.  Sadly, consumers accept it as the norm because it is the norm.  I will explain why in a minute.

There is nothing more impersonal than the following:

Please take a number

I get the need for efficiency.  However, knowing that you are just a number is so demoralizing.  The truth is, most of our interaction with companies now occurs online, which leads me to another frustrating common customer service interface.

 Your call will be answered in the order it was received. 

shocking truths about customer service

This photo captures an all too familiar scenario.  Calling a company often leads to high levels of frustration.  My research revealed six shocking truths about customer service. Today we will uncover these realities. Finally, I will share one simple step to change it all.

First, poor customer service is intentional

Did you know that large companies intentionally make it hard for you to obtain customer service. Americans spend an average of 13 hours yearly in dealing with customer service.  Why? Harvard Business Review estimates reparations cost companies 38 billion dollars in lost revenue. As a result, companies make it hard for customers, with the aim that they will give up.  Their goal is to save money in reparation costs,

Second, low quality customer service benefits large companies

In fact, poor customer service benefits large companies?  Yes, that is right. They implement systems discouraging successful refunds.  But how do they stay in business, you wonder.  Be sure and read number six for another shocking truth.

Third, large companies have a tiered customer service system

Many large companies structure their customer service departments in a hierarchical manner.  They identify your call by levels.  The first time you call you speak to a “Level One Agent”  These agents are not allowed to give you refunds.  Often you must call at least two times to make progress. This is an intentional effort to exasperate customers seeking refunds.  Specifically, customer service costs money. Think about it.  A staff member must be paid to answer your calls.  Further, if your call results in a refund then there is more financial loss.  Larger corporations know this and focus intently on the bottom line.  

Fourth, often large companies outsource their customer service to third parties.

Many businesses outsource their customer service to call centers.  These third party companies boast of benefits like cutting costs, saving time, more language options, and less headaches.

Fifth, automated systems have programs to assess your frustration level expressed in your voice tone.

Some companies streamline the use of call centers by adding in software that eavesdrops on the call.  Remember the recording, “This call may be monitored …”? AI (artificial intelligence) software helps the agent by analyzing your voice and creating prompts to defuse your irritation or anger.

Sixth, despite poor quality customer services, these companies maintain a successful position in the marketplace.

While it sounds counterintuitive, these companies remain on the top in the marketplace.  This is especially true when there is little competition.  Customers have little choice except to put up with terrible customer service or so they think.  But there is more to this story. First, I want to share a recent experience I had with customer service.

My encounter with business to business poor quality customer service

A few weeks ago, I found myself in an infuriating situation. I visited a supplier’s website.  My goal?  I needed to place an order.  Normally, it is easy-peasy.  Not this time.  Every time I clicked “ Checkout”, I was booted out of my account.  At first, I blamed myself.  Technology jinxes me often.  I logged in, added the items to my cart again, and clicked the button once more.  Poof.  My order vanished.  The website booted me off my account again.

Have no fear. I am a stubborn woman.  Perhaps that is why I love goats.  Goats are stubborn, and notorious for headbutting their way to a goal. They will take down their herd mates to get first dibs on the grain every time. It works for them.  Surely, it will work for me. 

Okay, it sometimes works for them. My little friend is having troubles. Her strong will proves pointless. She is ramming her reflection in a mirror.  

My efforts were pointless, at first.  I mustered all the stubbornness I could find.   I tried another browser. Same results.  By this point, I was exasperated.  Finally, I got a brilliant idea.  I called the company.  Perhaps I could place the order over the phone.

However, the automated and monotone voice message threw me into a  complete tizzy.

“Thank you for calling. As of July 20th, our status has changed. We are currently doing customer service only through email.  Voicemails will not be listened to or returned.”

Not listened to or returned?  What kind of customer service is that?  It was just like the goat head butting her reflection.  Pointless. Unproductive. And, now I know why.

So, I sent an email to the supplier.  Immediately I received another automated response.  This time it was an auto generated email of FAQs.  Guess what?  My problem was not listed.  As a result, my agitation soared to new levels.  I fired off an email explaining my dilemma.  A deadline on the horizon compounded the stress.  I needed these supplies to fill orders. Three days later, the supplier responded to my email. 

“Tell us the products you would like to order. We are happy to help.”

Over the course of those three days, I visited their website numerous times.  I again logged in on a different browser.  After being kicked off my account repeatedly, I finally succeeded.  It took great effort and persistence to work around their dysfunctional website. Their unresponsive customer service was of no help to me.  I had no idea that this system of customer service is by design.  Specifically, the goal is to discourage refunds.  In my case, I could not even place an order.  It cost me valuable time but saved the supplier the hassle of paying someone to answer the phone and take orders. And you guessed it, I don’t have a lot of other options to take my business elsewhere.

Sadly, this story of poor customer service is commonplace with large businesses.

Poor quality customer service is widespread

Indeed, these are shocking truths about customer service. As companies grow bigger, customer service languishes.  It grows cold, impersonal, and talking to staff often proves futile. It is shocking to realize they are trained to discourage you.  

Check out this video inspired by a bad customer service experience with United Airlines. This is the same airline that claims they have “level of service to our customers that makes [United] a leader in the airline industry.”  Yet, watch how the staff respond.  It beautifully illustrates the tactics to discourage customers.

Not only does United break guitars, but they also break teeth and noses.  In 2017, they forcefully removed a passenger because they overbooked their flight. In the process of removing this passenger against his will, they injured him. As a doctor, he had declined voluntary “bumping” because he had a full schedule of patients booked the next day. The consequence for this incident was a temporary drop in stocks, followed by a 39% increase in profits for 2017.  The company suffered little consequence despite viral videos that captured the event.

How to fix the poor customer service issues in the US.

The answer is simple really. Seek out small businesses as opposed to large ones.   I know it is not always possible due to monopolies.  That means we must get more creative at solving problems.  For example, the musician in the above video suggested he should have driven by car.

When you support small businesses, you will rarely find low quality customer service.  There is a unique spirit that comes from a person who has lived and breathed the company culture.  That enthusiasm can’t be outsourced no matter how good the call center or how smart the AI. 

At Bright Hope Soap Works, quality customer service is the backbone of our company. And it shows based on reviews like these we receive from our customers.  

Friendly customer service

Awesome soap and friendly customer service. Super fast shipping also.”
Wayne Wilson

There is passion behind the company

I ordered the Oatmeal N Hunny bar soap and lotion. They arrived quickly and packaged with a personal note. I love the soft scent. This is the second time ordering because of the quality, price and the passion behind the company. The soap lathers a lot and does not dry out my skin. The lotion is rich and drenches my skin in moisture and does not leave it greasy. I love goat milk products and supporting USA made. I will continue to purchase from this small family-owned business and urge you to try them as you will not be disappointed.
Angie Peterman

Also, handcrafting products and making customers feel valued is all about personal touch.  Our goal is to provide high-quality,  attentive, and compassionate customer service.  If you call our company, someone will answer the phone.  

shocking truths about customer service

I can’t promise who will answer the phone but someone will answer.

shocking truths about customer service

After all, goats are such an integral part of our team, we call them our co-workers. 

shocking truths about customer service

Just kidding! Goats don’t answer the phone around here.   Furthermore, goats certainly don’t do office work.  However, they may contribute to phone calls offering background noise. You may even hear a hen cluck during our call. It verifies our authenticity.  Specifically, we use milk from our own herd in our products. You can’t get around the barnyard chorus present during some of our customer service calls.  Such is life on a small family farm.

Personal attention and excellent customer service is only one benefit of supporting a small business. Experience the joy of quality customer service today by visiting our shop.

Stay tuned for more reasons to support small businesses in the weeks to come.

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