Is Awesome Customer Service Becoming Extinct?

Einstein's "We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them." on the background of Rodin's The Thinker.

When asking if you’ve Experienced Ghastly Customer Service JC brought up a great question: Is an awesome customer experience becoming a thing of the past? He had me thinking and churning and I think it can be a thing of the future as well, and very much alive — but only in companies that actively prioritize it with action, not just with words. And also only if we, as customers, value it enough.

United Airlines used to focus on what they referred to as “Operational Excellence”, which apparently refers to cost-cutting. And what happens when you focus on cutting operating costs? Well, Ghastly Customer Service can happen… Exceptional customer service is possible, but it needs to be the priority, not a pretty poster on the wall. And even though it doesn’t come for free, in my opinion, it has a huge benefit.

The Ritz-Carlton, with whom I am not affiliated, is one of the companies that reportedly focuses on AWESOME customer experience. Not just by saying it. By acting on it: “Each Lady & Gentleman at The Ritz-Carlton, at all levels, are empowered to spend up to $2000 per guest, per incident.” And what happens when you do that? Here’s a story about what a Ritz-Carlton employee did for a child who lost/left their toy behind: spoiler alert, it’s awesome! TL;DW? They found the toy, and created an album with photos that showed that the toy stayed behind for a “longer vacation”, and sent this whole thing, including the toy back to the child! See the story in the 4minute video to the right, and I’m not affiliated with Mercantile either, it’s just where I found this story:

I have one of those stories. Years ago I bought a hardcover whose mostly white book-flap came with a few scratches. I noticed it after my husband pointed it out, and then I just couldn’t un-see it. So I wrote an email to the company I bought it from, something along the lines of:

The book you sent me arrived quickly and it was the book I ordered. It is clearly brand new. All the pages are intact; all the words seem to be legible. And yet, there are a few minor scratches on the front cover of the book-flap. If I saw this copy at a brick-and-mortar bookstore, I would have just picked up a different copy to buy instead. What do you think I should do?

The company in question asked no questions. They overnighted me another copy with a return address sticker enclosed, so that I could use the same box to return the offending book, with their apologies! WOW!!! For the cost of shipping they got years of a free “ambassador” (me!) telling this story to my family, my friends, and my colleagues at every opportunity, with great flourish, and high recommendations to trust this company and buy from it.

I continued to buy from them, even though I knew I could find the same products elsewhere for cheaper because I valued their customer service. And that’s the second side of the coin: are we, as customers, willing to pay extra for better customer service, or do we value price and that’s why airlines that rank at the bottom of customer survey continue to thrive financially?

What about you? Do you think AWESOME customer service is dying out? In your optinion, Is better customer service worth paying for?

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52 thoughts on “Is Awesome Customer Service Becoming Extinct?

  1. It’s gotten to the point where if someone just dies their job, no extras, just efficiently handles something, I think the service was awesome. My standards have lowered.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had to reread your comment a couple of times 🙂 There was an autocorrect of does–>dies, and it gave it a whole new meaning 😀

      I think it’s true: standards have been lowered, for sure, and I’m not sure that’s right. Certainly not for us as customers. Think about a company like Zappos. WOW. A company like Vitamix, or Costco. They stand out like shinning beacons of what CAN be. Of why, perhaps, there’s hope?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I had a horrible experience at my local supermarket the other day. Communication is a big issue. The cashier looked like she was on her cell phone. The guy waiting to pay made a comment. We didn’t know the woman was working on something because she never said anything to us. It’s frustrating

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    1. What and absolutely terrific point! I think you’re right: too often companies think that big, splashy ads somehow confuse people so that they don’t notice subpar customer service or even subpar products?

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  2. Good question. We definitely return where we get good service, even if the prices are not the lowest. We also try the gentle approach when contacting firms who have delivered damaged products or bad service and the soft approach seems to get better results than the angry, ranty one. One instance is our local City office in regards to a dangerous road we use. One neighbour approached them years ago with a ranty, you must do this, approach and then kept after them like it was her mission in life. She did not succeed and in fact eventually, her lack of success forced her to move away. I took up the mission, with gentle inquiries of the City and compliments to the city councillors who listened to us. When I was invited to go speak to council, I thought about it and then declined, saying I had every confidence that the councillors were on our side and would do the right thing. They later came back and advised they were supporting my proposed solution. We will see what comes of it, but useful changes have already been made and are having success. Maybe another question that needs to be asked is “Do belligerent customers deserve awesome customer service? Cheers. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is a wise approach, indeed! Your eloquent description makes it clear how the ranting and raving can easily result in a defensive posture, whereas your approach, of calm and gentle persuasion is a winner. I really like how you persuaded the city councilors to be your champions! That’s the work of a mastermind, I have much to learn from you!

      And the question you’re posing is an excellent one and I’ll need to think much on it. What do you think?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My answer is that they do not. Often their belligerence is directed at the entirely wrong people, those who do not set protocol or make the decisions at the business. Everyone deserves respect until they do something to change that entitlement. When I was a people manager, I always told my team to put themselves in the other person’s shoes for a while. Seems everyone is going through something and often, they just need to be heard. Cheers. Allan

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I think these are two excellent points: to put oneself in the other person’s shoes AND to start out respecting people… until they give you a reason not to. Both seem to be lacking in customer service more often than not (and in other areas, too)?

          Liked by 1 person

  3. When my father-in-law died, the funeral home came in the middle of the night to pick up his body. The next day they went out of their way to help us with the final arrangements, and expressed genuine-seeming sorrow and sympathy for our loss. The funeral and burial went off without a hitch, due to their fastidious attention to detail. So no, awesome customer service is not dead. Just my father-in-law.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As sad as the circumstances of your story are, I think it is an AWESOME example of AWESOME customer service being alive and well. I like that they weren’t the often-depicted grabby funeral home operators that prey on people at their most vulnerable. Your story inspires hope. Thank you so much for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The Ritz-Carlton story is amazing! I love your patronage to the book vendor who was so accommodating. Agree with that…paying a little more to support good people doing good things…works for me! 🙂🙂🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You and me, both. When I discovered this amazing vendor I belonged to this service that guaranteed 5% lower prices than any other store (on new books). I never renewed my subscription to that service after I found the amazing vendor. Sadly, the amazing vendor stopped putting its customers on pedestals and now treats them more like revenue sources to be exploited…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I think we must also be patient with those who work in customer service.  After the pandemic, there are many shortages in retail and food service; our standards must be lowered, and we must show grace to people who work in these professions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re true to your tag line ❤ And yes, it is much easier to be graceful to those who show us the same in return, no?

      One of the things that captivated me about the movie on Mr. Rogers was how deliberate he was about showing grace to others. His wife, in interviews, said that that was not accidental. He worked very Very VERY hard at it!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t need people to go over the top but I do want to be treated respectfully, have an employee engage a bit with me in a friendly way (say at the checkout) and not make me feel, no matter what type of business we’re talking about, that I am simply something to tolerate until they can take their lunch break.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like how you said that. I, too, am not looking to replicate that one scene from Pretty Woman where Richard Gere explained that much fawning is required. MUCH 😀

      And I like how you said the second part, too. There are all too many cases where someone who’s providing service that I’m paying for is doing it as they’re doing a favor to me 😦 That’s (part of) what happened to us in the ghastly experience that I’m still not completely over … Though I did stop seething at this point 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I agree with LA that often just normal customer service, done with a smile rather than a grimace, makes us as customers so grateful.

    I did have a great experience recently though. My husband and I ordered a retractable hose reel and after we installed it, we realized that it wasn’t in quite the right place (I “may” have misdirected my hubby). I called the company to order more hardware so we could move it. They overnighted what we needed at no charge – for the hardware or the shipping.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I so love that story. This moment stays with you for so long, and I think it makes one an ambassador for that company. That HAS to be worth more than the cost of the hardware and the shipping. What do you think?

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        1. It’s like that quote from James Bond “First time is happenstance, second time is coincidence, but third time “… I’ll take liberties and say “awesome experience!” (The original quote said “emery action” 😁)

          Liked by 2 people

  8. I totally think great customer service is worth paying more for.

    Brilliantly done, post, EW! I love how you lay it out and tell a story. I think good customer service will always be with us because it’s so fundamentally human. Underlying great customer service is probably organizations that care for and empower their employees and I think companies will always range the gamut on that. But if we are willing to pay more for great customer service, hopefully we are supporting the organizations that also support their people!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Wynne, I really appreciate it. I think you’re right on both points: first, it’s on us to “vote with our business” and give it to those who provide the type of experience we’re looking for. I can tell you that for myself, if 15 years ago I went for the dirt-cheap flights, regardless of the layovers, 5 years ago I was willing to pay a premium on a better itinerary and even a better seat.
      And second, yes, it’s the organizations that need to empower their employees rather than try to dictate interactions through scripts where they fail miserably to create a connection, sometimes through no fault of the employees trapped in the hairball of process?

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I don’t seem to have the awful customer service experiences that plague you. Case in point, my last post about a good company. As for paying more for better service, hell to the yes. Of course I want better!

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  10. I think, by and large, it’s already extinct. So much so that the good customer service experiences are so few and far between, we really rave about them when they happen.

    I worked in customer service for many years. I know it’s a thankless job, but I also know if you don’t want to do it, you should find something else (as I did). Until that happens, you owe it to the customer to wow them as much as possible. Too few people share this opinion, apparently.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I agree wholeheartedly with you! I once saw a survey where more than half of the employees said they have no customers, and it got me thinking that customer service is a state of mind, since everyone, from the CEO to the janitor, the system administrator to the blogger, has customers and should be attentive to one’s customers?

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  11. Better customer service is probably worth paying for. That’s such a great story. I love that the guy took the time to make the video about the guy who took the time to make the photo binder. So sweet all around.

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    1. Ikr? I think the word-of-mouth from this awesome type of customer service is such a winner, for the company, for the employee, for the customer … Wish we had more of that, no?

      Speaking of awesome (or just terrifying) things: how are you doing with those terrifying sandstorms?

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh, wowsa. I’m north of all that, thankfully. But thanks for pointing out what’s happening in my own county.

          Reminds me, loosely, of when Hubby’s friend in Israel commiserated with Hubby about the horrendous drought we’re having out here. Hubby was like, we are? I think news gets more inflated the farther away it’s being reported. 😛

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Glad it didn’t hit you, and that you’re not in the habit of shooting messengers 😁

          Interesting about the drought-inflation… Can you imagine what the little green folks on Mars must be thinking about it? 🤣

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Rofl! Love that! I was hoping for the more benevolent aliens that come to “serve humanity”, though every time I say that, I remember that old-timey Twilight Zone episode about “Serving Humanity” which ended up being… for dinner. Maybe it’s best we cherish our sand 😀

          Liked by 1 person

  12. Customer service is indeed dying out. With a few exceptions. American Express is still outstanding. My bank is still very good. (Sorry won’t say who that is. Too risky in case of hacking.)
    Main reason? Lack of competition and low salaries paid to the “executives”.
    Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad YOUR bank is still very good 😀

      What you’re saying is making me wonder: why is there not better service across the board, in areas where there IS a lot of competition? In my example, with pharmacies, there is quite a bit of competition, and most are quite bad. Doe they feel that they don’t need to compete for my business? Are those executives not incentivized to care? What do you think?

      Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s very thought-provoking! Is it that we’re becoming more careless with what we have? As an avid fan of Office Space and Better Off Ted, you know what my thoughts are on the “bad management” portion of it…

          Help me understand what Bugs Bunny would have meant?

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        2. When Bunny got a bucket of water thrown on his head or anything like that he would say, dripping: “Of course, you realize this means war?”. And retaliation began. 😉

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  13. Probably in the same way voters will give more consideration to shorter term and personal kitchen table issues, consumers generally prefer lower cost. The only exceptions, like yours, are when other considerations are more important.
    Most people can’t afford that option very often. That’s something I can now do, even though it’s my knee jerk reaction and mindset to only go for the cheapest.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a MAGNIFICENT point: for most of us, shorter term, immediate concerns seem to override the longer term ones. But there are times where “penny-wise-pound-foolish” holds. How many times have you seen someone opt for a cheap pair of shoes that need to be replaced more frequently because… they were built NOT to last? Or driving 30 minutes to save $0.02 on a gallon of gas 🙂

      I think some of it is that we don’t see the forest for the trees. And sometimes we are overwhelmed by the trees and don’t even have the energy to look beyond the next leaf?

      It’s very insightful: how do we maintain a balance between the near-term and the long-term, and … do we even care to?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’ve described what’s always been my “problem”. Both my sister and I “blame” it on the way we were raised. We both are trying to change that, at least a little, as we are advancing in age!

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