The customer service divide – what is going wrong?

Yesterday I experienced terrible customer service at the hands of a well known large company. I was bounced around six different departments (which included my hanging up and redialing, and not to freephone numbers). Different departments were quite rude about other departments, then myself. My query was never really successfully answered and as one customer service rep told me bluntly: “You are being fobbed off”. Great!

As a result of this I was left frustrated and angry but what saddens me most, is that I wasn’t surprised. Nowadays it seems that good service is the exception rather than the rule. When I do my shopping, be it online or otherwise I use a variety of retailers, both large companies and smaller, independent ones. Over time I have noticed that the levels of good customer service between these are widening. I rarely receive anything but excellent service from smaller retailers and on the odd occasion that there has been a problem, it is usually dealt with quickly, efficiently and pleasantly.

I have to wonder if more needs to be done with larger companies to narrow the divide. I know that the company I encountered yesterday have an extensive induction and training programme and that customer service is included heavily in this. What is going wrong? What can these companies do to pull their levels of customer service up? Do staff need to be monitored more carefully? Is this plausable, given the extra workload and expensive it would cause? I hate to see large companies written off / slated because of the actions of the few.

What is the answer? Do you agree that smaller businesses and services have much better service records than larger companies? Why do you think this is and what can be done in big businesses to bridge the gap?

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  1. Having worked as a trainer in call centres,money is a big factor. People are expensive, so large companies keep their costs low by using automation (recorded messages, menu systems etc) and pay as little for their customer services reps as they can. That means that the person at the end of the phone is often a temp, a contract worker or a student working part-time. That’s not to say these people are bad at their jobs, but when nobody on the team has any long-term plans (by that I mean a few years!) to stay with the company, you don’t get any continuity and it’s hard to keep the service levels consistent. Most have only had basic training in the product or service. It’s all very much flow-chart driven (“when someone asks x then do y”)and if the system screws up or you have poor management, it all falls apart very quickly.

    It’s tough to solve because improving the level of customer service would probably put the cost of the product up, which none of us want now money is tight. I don’t think it’s impossible, though.

  2. We live and die by our customer service. It is of such importance to us. Our products are available in many places but we are small (in relation to the big companies) and we pride ourselves on delivering a personal service as that is what sets us apart when people decide to buy direct from us. No recorded voices when you call (outside business hours we have an answerphone) and staff have to answer within 4 rings otherwise the call goes to automatically to answerphone (not good!). Our attitude to customer service might not provide us with the absolute greatest last penny/pound of profit but it provides jobs and we are constantly being told how nice it is to deal with real people who know what they are talking about. Big companies are not all bad but the ones who have something to learn need to look to the ones who have ‘got it right’. It isn’t rocket science – Mrs. ‘Doasyouwouldbedoneby’ from Charles Kingsley’s ‘The Water Babies’ comes to mind. There’s a bit of a moral tale in there!

    1. Having experienced your customer service I can agree that it is exceptional, and on the back of that (as well as the fact I am in love with my Dodo Pad), I have recommended you to others.
      The same is true of other companies large and small where I have had good experiences, I am more likely to sing their praises as is everyone else.

      What I don’t understand is, when you consider that, why ALL companies don’t do the same?

  3. The flip side of this is that small businesses can have a massive advantage over the huge companies in that they can give excellent and personal customer service. As for the big companies, with good management the system I described above can work well. I think as customers we often rate low prices over good service. And we only value good customer service when something goes wrong and we really do need it.

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