Angry customers

Angry customers have become the new norm.

Almost everyone is displeased by the way they are treated in stores, over the telephone, and by anyone trying to sell something.

When calling a firm to complain or even ask question, the voice on the telephone calls you by your first name, and then states that the call must be directed to a different department.

Then robo gatekeepers respond, and no human voice is there. If one is fortunate enough to speak to a person, say about a problem on the internet, one speaks to someone in India whose lack of English is compounded by ignorance. A chap in Hyderabad is no help in understanding customers. These experiences have become all too commonplace.

It has been said that “the customer is king” but widespread experience does not confirm that.

As a result, some firms have started to appoint chief customer officers to bring more attention to the beleaguered customer. They are supposed to consider problems from the entire customer experience. The individual handling complaints may have many assistants who tackle the difficulties experienced by customers.

In a new book Outside In, Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine write about why all this is happening. Too, the internet makes it easier to shop around and share complaints. It is not surprising then that this has come about because one third of customers questioned stated that they rate companies as “poor” or “very poor”.

Technology and growing company awareness may change the way customers are handled, and it is to be hoped, will spur major reforms.

Will this make any difference? Companies have paid lip service to customers’ irritation for years, but, nevertheless, customers still are treated very badly. Successful companies such as Disney now are hiring people as much for their attitudes as their skills.

Unfortunately, to date too few companies ask if they are encountering any problems, how the shopping experience has been, and remedy anything that needs attention. Companies should receive frequent updates on customers’ views.

Customers obviously like low prices, and good service costs money, at least initially. Companies eventually will learn that good service reduces costs and wins customer approval. Recognition of that is long overdue.

Companies should set the voice machines to work on more mundane tasks, such as selling tickets, and work on winning customer approval.



Bruce Whitestone