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Customer Service is Getting Worse
Dec 10, 2009

I have not commented on my website in well over a month.  The last two observations I made were a positive hope that with the Holidays upon us and a slowly recovering economy, companies, retailers individual service professionals would step it up and recognize that the key to retaining customers , long term, is to serve them well.  I have read many articles, heard television reports and read some surveys that declare definitively that service is not improving, in fact perhaps regressing.

In the 5 weeks or so my website reporting has gone dark, I spent the month of November busy working, traveling and taking a six day holiday.  During those 30 some days I flew 17,425 miles, stayed at 8 different hotels, 24 of the 30 nights of November flew 3 different airlines to two continents.   I encountered literally hundreds of service people in various capacities.  I flew a terrific airline, stayed at some really special hotels, dined at some wonderful restaurants.

In reviewing all of those travel experiences in anticipation of my first post in over 5 weeks, I find myself starting to get discouraged by the inability of our nation to become a great service economy and watch the State of Service in America decay further rather than respond to the needs of all of America's customers suffering through a recession and pleading for service.

 If you will accept my assumption of over  a couple of hundred service people and encounters  in all of that travel here is what I actually can document as being my personal experience.  If great service can be defined in a simple form as  some person or place  that seeks opportunities to create memories for their customers; here are my memories:

  • The Four Seasons Hotel in Maui is a glorious service experience because Everyone, Everywhere, Every time serves with the highest degree of attention and concern for every service encounter detail.
  • Contrast that with The JW Marriott Ihilani in Ko Olina where it is safe to say that hardly anyone, anytime, anywhere made customer service a priority
  • The difference in price $146.00 a night; the difference in value received immeasurable
  • On American Airlines a marvelous flight attendant made a very ill passenger (me) feel so special and cared for.
  • A bellman at the NYAC turned out to be one of the very best I have encountered in ages based upon how he did what he did.
  • A store manager  named Joe at D'Agostino Supermarkets on York Ave and 80th Street knows how to welcome customers or colleagues friends or strangers; he treats them all the same; wonderfully. 
  • A restaurant owner of La Primavera on First Avenue knows that a first time customer can be a life time customer if served well.

Reflect if you will on the limited number of service memories created  by  4 individuals and one company in all of that very busy travel.  There were so many service people and encounters.  Only 4 individuals and one Hotel were capable of creating Service Memories.  In analyzing all four individual encounters and the Four Seasons experience all had similar service traits :

  1. Each individual was an exceptional listener
  2. Each understood "soft needs"
  3. Each cared more about the person they were serving
  4. Each demonstrated empathy
  5. Each was proactive in serving

The Four Seasons as an entity does all of the above all of the time because as a company they care about their customers and service is always flawless, because it is their priority.  Will we as a nation of servers ever decide to make a difference in How we do What we do?  Service Excellence in and of itself is a relatively simple notion;  care about the person you are serving, listen and understand their needs, put them first and communicate with them well and often.  But in that simplicity resides the complexity, for if it were really all that simple we would experience great pleasure in our  everyday dealings and we do not.

 I always believed eventually we would learn to serve well. ... I am discouraged  but remain hopeful.


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"How You Do What You Do", by Bob Livingston

 
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