How did customer-centric behavior become obsolete?

April 5, 2022

customer-serviceEver feel like tearing out your hair after trying to reach “customer service?” Or after an interaction with a business that left you feeling unheard?

There was a day when meeting customer needs was a top priority of businesses small and large. Today, customer focus is more the exception than the norm, and that is especially true for businesses that have high customer demand. True customer service is now obsolete.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been shocked in an interaction when no attempt is made to understand my needs, my position–or even what I am saying.

Or the number of times a business owner has said, “Well, I don’t usually (fill in the blank)” and what’s implied is “even though it would be much easier for you if I did.”

Why bother, when there’s always another customer just waiting for that slot?

Our society overall has become more self-centered, so when I think about it, I shouldn’t be surprised.

How about the many times we are placed on interminable hold. Or almost worse, going through a three or four-layer phone tree? Or the “customer service” bots that don’t answer our question? Or the emails that get canned responses that may or may not relate to our problem.

Oh, the lengths companies will go to in order to ensure we NEVER talk to a live person.

And then, how about the customer service surveys? A joke, right?

It’s enough to make your head spin.

I saw a meme the other day that referred to seniors as having outlived their warranty.  We’ve also outlived courtesy, customer service and civil behavior. And that’s something I never expected.

How about you? What are your customer service frustrations?

Oh and PS. After the last interaction that made clear the service provider couldn’t care any less about our needs, we began the process to replace them. A month later, we were able to do that. And they’ll never know why. I could attempt to discuss it with them but it was obvious they wouldn’t get it. So..sayonara and best of luck!
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20 comments on “How did customer-centric behavior become obsolete?
  1. That is such a great question, Carol, and the answer has many parts, though I’d say they all come down to two: to maximizing profit and passive consumers who can’t just say no. There’s no reversing the trend, and it’s so aggravating. I would also include the heavily accented customer service outsourced overseas.

  2. Haralee Weintraub says:

    Carol, maybe it is our age but I am amazed at how easily companies deal with unhappy customers. As a consumer we are left with the option to fire and as you note sometimes that option is not easy! I had to fire my oncologist because her office made error after mistake after mistake with hardly an apology. So 2022!!

  3. Laurie Stone says:

    My big pet peeve is when you can’t get a human on the phone. Everything is ‘press button one if you want this, press two if you want that.’ Or they tell you to go to their website for more details, and you don’t have a username or password. Really crazy-making.

  4. Nancy Hill says:

    Waiting… and waiting… and on hold for an hour with no option to have them call me back. When I do get someone who is thoughtful I heap praise upon them. Deep breathing and extreme positive visualization before interaction helps… a bit.

  5. The cable company and the cell phone companies are the absolute WORST! And those phone trees drive me insane!

  6. Diane says:

    I remember a time when even the suggestion that you may find service elsewhere lit a fire under people to try and keep you. Now they simply don’t care. It’s SO disheartening and discouraging. I want fifty years ago…

  7. Lauren says:

    Your line “we’ve also outlived courtesy, customer service and civil behavior” nailed it. The downfall of mankind (kind being the operative word lost). I sound like an old “Karen” and I don’t care. Businesses or any service related to people could care less. I fired my GP for total incompetence after months of trying to get him to refill a simple prescription. I’m sure he didn’t even notice or care. I left. I found a doctor who provides great service and gets back to you. Who would have thought 20 years ago this would be the exception, not the rule? It’s sad and maddening. Seyonara is right!

  8. Alana says:

    I’ve been on both sides of this fence. I’ve done customer service work but it was back in the day when a customer got a real live person (before the fourth ring was one of our standards) without going through “Press “X” for this, Press “Y” for that” hell. I didn’t work for a call center, and I truly have sympathy for those who do. I work with a woman whose daughter used to work for a local service provider, and she and other reps were actually threatened with physical harm from time to time by customers! Now, the flip side, the side you are speaking of, you are so right. When I’m trying to get customer service, it has sometimes been so frustrating that I find myself yelling at the recording. My latest go round was April 4, with the local newspaper and a delivery issue. None of the “Press X for this” options covered my issue, so the system disconnected me! And the rep I finally got after I called back several minutes later and managed to get a human didn’t do what I asked either. My only option would have been to cancel the subscription and I don’t want to abandon what’s left of local journalism. All of this so 2022. Ugh.

  9. So much this. Lately I cannot count the services I’ve terminated or just never bought just because of this. I wonder if a silent costumer revolution is under way.
    I too have written about it on my blog – I even have a dedicated label, Friday Frustrations, for this 😉

  10. Rita says:

    Customer service hasn’t been very good, then during the pandemic it got much worse.

  11. Some secrets about IVRs. If you get a voice-activated IVR just keep saying you want to speak to a human and it will transfer you. For a numeric IVR enter *’s or 0’s and the system will transfer you to a human. Sometimes it might hang up, but most times you get the human. Having spent years coaching and training Customer Service reps and now doing customer service part-time I find that because most reps work remotely now, the training is lacking in some ways. Sure the online training environment is far better than it used to be but there is little to no role-playing difficult customer situations. At best you’re “told” how to handle it but it doesn’t prepare you for real-world situations. I also find cultural differences among customers. I am originally from the northeast and those customers are brutal about their time and will never let you forget it. Now I’m in the south and find most don’t care how long it takes, they’re just happy to speak to a person and to laugh at how this northerner pronounces their southern words. Hint, sometimes I mispronounce on purpose to diffuse a situation, and then after the laughter, I’ll be told I just made their day! I also had to learn how to not be insulted by the use of the word ma’am. It’s said to every woman from birth to death in the south but in the northeast, it’s insulting and means you’re old. On the other hand, when I get a rep who sounds bored or frustrated, etc., I shower them with kindness, I don’t match their energy instead I’ll treat them the way they should be treating a customer. It usually works to cajole them out of their mood and if not…at least I haven’t come down to their level and still feel good getting off the phone.

  12. My biggest beef is getting someone from across the globe to help me out who is hard to understand.

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