Why Do Businesses Lie About Customer Service?

Why Do Businesses Lie About Customer Service?

Business owners and executives continue to extol the virtues of customer service. But when it comes to commitment, they are full of hot air.

You don’t have to go far or listen hard to hear stories of bad customer service. Everyone you speak to seems to have a customer service story that is worse than yours. Just this past weekend, I again was jinxed by a rash of bad customer service experiences.

First I stopped by a pharmacy (a national chain) to pick up two simple items. I looked around for the friendly face of an employee but there were none to be found. To be specific, I’m not talking about a friendly face…I’m talking about any face at all!

After wondering up and down the aisles, I finally found two travel tubes of toothpaste. I then headed for the checkout line – which was empty. Most notably there was an absence of any cashiers. I waited for a few minutes only to notice two employees standing outside – smoking. I waved to them through the large windows….but was ignored. I then went outside and asked, “is there anyone who can check me out?” To which they responded, “we’ll be there in a minute. We have to hang this sign.” Why it took two people to tape one sign to a window, I don’t know. But this obviously took precedence over my need to pay. Without even the slightest hesitation, I reached out, handed them the toothpaste, and drove away. A few other customers remained inside, wondering around the store. Hopefully they were honest souls because no one was watching the store – or for that matter working in it. Management at least at this company store seems to have cut back on human resources and service a bit too deep. From the lack of traffic, other customers must agree.

Later in the day we went to dinner with friends. We had a large group so we requested separate checks. The waitress said, “no problem” and took our orders. But apparently it was a problem for her since not one of the six couples received a check with the correct orders on it. One of our friends motioned to her and told her the checks were wrong. To this she replied, “I’m really sorry.” And then proceeded to ask us to “figure it out ourselves because [I’m] not really good with math.” We did figure the checks out and decided next time we’d dine elsewhere.

While neither of these incidents was horrific, the outcomes were the same – dissatisfied customers who at the very least will do business elsewhere next time.

Michael LeBoeuf in his book How To Win Customers and Keep Them for LifeCustomer Service Assessment Test cites a survey designed to discover why customers quit doing business with a company. The survey revealed that 68% quit because of an attitude of indifference toward the customer by the owner, manager or some employee. In both of the experiences I just shared, indifference was crystal clear. When considering the life time value of a customer, studies indicate it costs roughly 300 to 700 times an hourly worker’s rate. That’s a lot of money that few businesses can afford to absorb but management seems complacent enough to keep paying.

The real crime is that these bad customer service experiences can be prevented if employers would take a few steps to hire employees with a positive customer service attitude and good skills. But employers continue to seek candidates who have good customer service skills and then hire any warm body who accepts the job. When you consider the high cost of a bad hire, the ROI associated with improving employee screening and interviewing is significant. By combining a good behavioral interview with pre-employment testing, business owners can hire better, reduce turnover, improve customer retention, and save thousands of dollars.

So what will it take for companies to recruit and hire employees who have a positive customer service attitude and commitment?


This article originally appeared in The Total View, a weekly online newsletter that focuses on hiring, management and retention strategies. The Total View is written and published by Ira S. Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions and is distributed with permission by The Chrysalis Corporation. Subscribe for FREE to The Total View by typing your e-mail address in the newsletter sign-up box on the right side of this page!