Customer Service Levels in America

By | January 1, 2016

Customer Service is the hottest topic in 2016.  It is simply amazing how bad the service level has become for virtually every company type we deal with.  Whether it is a large retailer or your local shipping company with brown trucks, it just seems that nobody gets this right, and worse, nobody really cares.

The absolute lowest hanging fruit for your business, product, product idea, or whatever you have, is  to keep your current customers happy and not have to spend a lot of marketing money on bringing in new customers.  In watching my favorite TV show Shark Tank, the sharks often ask the entrepreneurs the question, “What is your cost of acquiring a new customer?”

I see this on a daily basis with the Cincinnati Bell and Time Warner Cable. The two companies spend massive amounts of advertising for new customers.  To the best of my knowledge, we really only have two options in the Cincinnati market for Internet and telephone service. While Directv is in the mix for television service, at most there are 3 good options.

It is incredible how much Cincinnati Bell spends advertising for new customers.  Same with Time Warner.  Incredibly, they just do not do a whole lot to retain customers in the way of providing good customer service.

Cincinnati Bell has mostly outsourced their phone support to the Philippines.  For the most part, this generally means that people have to call, wait on hold, and then eventually talk to someone on the other side of the world.  The customer service rep is simply going to go off a script, so if it is not your first time calling about a problem, you already have turned everything off for 5 minutes and then back on in the proper sequence.

I am not trying to beat up Cincinnati Bell,  I am just trying to make the point that they make it miserable to even have to call technical support.  Even more baffling to me is that they have no way to open a support ticket online, and then they can call back when they are available.  While they do sometimes have the option not to have to wait on the phone and receive a call back, this again means you still have to talk to someone miles away who will take 5 minutes to pull up your account, and 15 more to figure out that they have to dispatch a technician.

I could go on and on about my personal experience and how pitiful it was with their support, but needless to say, they spend a fortune acquiring a new customer and then drive them away to Time Warner Cable by having such lousy support.  Then of course the cycle repeats itself at Time Warner and then I end up back at Cincinnati Bell.  Their marketing department probably thinks they are doing something right, however it really is just because they haven’t been the most recent company to make me mad enough to switch.

So,  always remember that customer service means a lot of things.  This may not be relevant to you in the sense that you don’t provide a service that big.  But do you answer the phone when people call you?  Do you return phone calls and emails the same or next day to people calling you, either for support or potentially new business?

You may have this happen all the time.  I know I do.  Often times you call someone, say a plumbing company, with cash in hand.  You call 3 more, and still nobody answers the phone. You leave them all messages about wanting to get something installed, or fixed, or whatever the case may be.

At best, 1 in 4 will call back and generally not within a week.  Sound familiar?  This incredible lack of customer service is permeating American business and just seems to be too far gone.  It is almost like the Walmartization of customer service.

I bet in the past year you have called multiple places wanting to buy a product or service, and could not even get someone on the phone, or to call you back, or email you back.  I tested this recently by filling out a new patient form for a doctor office where I drove past their accepting new patients sign.

You guessed it, 2 weeks later and nothing. No email or phone call back, despite filling out the information on their website that I wanted to be a new patient. Their form didn’t ask me if I had insurance or not, so it’s not like they pre-screened me and decided not to deal with me. Just no response.

Another shining example is that a large company called me to bid on a website project for them. I called them right back the same day, found out what they wanted, and I sent them the bid.  I received the job and later asked their marketing manager why they selected me from the 10 web development and design firms they called.

She simply told me I was the only one who called them back.  So, my advise to you in 2016 and beyond, is call people back.  Even if it is for a service or support related call, you never know what else they may be looking for. Go out there and provide someone good service and watch the impact it will start having on your business.