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?