Columnist: Customer service – definitely a dying art form

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 17, 2016

Do you remember the good old days when the customer was always right? A time when management of a business did everything humanly possible to ensure your return as a customer?

Well, those days appear to be gone forever. Business executives and CEOs years ago invested quite a lot of money into customer service so that their employees would know what is expected of them in representing their brand.

Employees today, however, do not give a heck about representing a company’s brand. I went shopping recently at a multi-billion dollar home improvement store that prides itself, at least in their advertisements, in providing customers with the best shopping experiences while visiting their stores.

When I visited the store I immediately went to the garden area with the intent of purchasing select items for a weekend project. I spoke with the cashier, who could not leave her register, that some of the items that I would be purchasing required the assistance of an employee. She immediately paged a manager that was on duty to assist me with my order.

You know what? Without exaggeration, I waited nearly two hours for assistance to no avail. During this time I used my cell phone to dial into the store to inform the manager that I was in need of service in the garden area.

The manager, ironically, never acknowledged my request for assistance. There were a number of customers who witnessed my frustration that day and confessed that this particular store was one that they rarely visit for the same reasons – lousy customer service.

Did you know that complaining about customer service can get you hurt?

Well it can. Visitors to a well-known fast food restaurant I used to frequent were treated to a brawl between a customer and an employee.

The incident began the day before between the two, when the customer complained about the rudeness she experienced with the employee. The next day, rather than finding another place to eat, the customer decided that she wanted to visit the same restaurant.

Upon her entering the restaurant, the employee whom she complained about began to inform her colleagues that the customer would get a well-deserved beating with the slightest provocation. By the time the customer had gotten to the register to place her order the employee jumped over the counter and began fighting.

It actually took the customers to break up the fight. Was management at fault? Should the employee have been suspended for the previous offense or provided comprehensive training in dealing with customer complaints?

The cost of lousy customer service

Lousy customer service is expensive to business.

Bad customer service cost businesses in excess of $80 billion per year in the United states and over $300 billion worldwide. There is no doubt that businesses need to take their customer service practices more seriously.

It is estimated that 75 percent of customers find it difficult to get the attention of a representative. When this happens, customers tend to give up in frustration (

When lousy customer service is good for business

For the unscrupulous businessman or company, lousy customer service is actually good for their bottom line.

You know who they are.

Take for instance the home warranty businesses that are making a financial killing in the United States. These companies provide substantial dollars in social media advertisements to persuade consumers to purchase their home warranty policies.

If your air conditioner goes out – covered. If your heating unit, dishwasher, washing machine/dryer, garage door go out – you are led to trust them that you are covered.

But wait, it is just not true. If one of your covered items does go out, more than likely a technician will inform you that your lack of maintenance on the items void your contract.

You can call customer service to complain against these companies, but you’re likely to get a person who will deny your claim, and to do it rudely, if necessary. These companies are now being investigated by attorney generals in more than 23 states.

The attorney general of New Jersey, recently in fact, has even gone so far as to call these companies fraudulent.

What about you? Do you have a good customer service story?

By Glenn Dowell

Contributing columnist

Dr. Glenn Dowell, a LaGrange native, is an author and columnist who lives in Georgia. He has been an instructor at Texas Southern University, guest speaker on major college campuses and appeared on TV programs including ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show.’ He may be reached at