How Consumers Killed Customer Service
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A recent Brandweek article titled "Retail Customer Service Stinks" reported that the service received by shoppers in over 1000 retail interactions in the study rated 48.2 out of a possible 100 points – a flunking grade. The study, conducted by the research firm The Salt and Pepper Group, examined retail interactions in 73 stores over a four-month period. It went on to cite specific issues including the failure of staff to identify selling opportunities or handle multiple customers. Essentially, staff weren’t actively anticipating or delivering on the needs of their customers.
As the report made its way into the retail community it was met with a combination of surprise, disgust, and a dose of self-righteousness by industry experts. There was a landslide of opinion and commentary citing the need for retailers to properly train their staff to sell and the failure of store management to lead their salespeople. Some suggested that it was the fault of retailers who treat employees as costs instead of assets. And others called out the need to get back to the basics of retailing.
The Big Problem
The problem is that retailers didn’t make this happen. We—the consumer—did. The fact that "service stinks" is entirely our fault. We’re the only ones to blame.
We demanded the lowest airfare wherever we flew. We went to the buy-one-get-one sales. We made Walmart what it is today. We camped out for Black Friday. We built the dollar store channel. The bottom line is that we voted with our wallets and customer service lost. We killed customer service.
Minimum Wage = Minimum Service
The consequence of our lust for cheap stuff combined with the retailer's hunger for profit is that there’s barely a working wage left in it for most retail employees. And yet with most retail workers at or near minimum wage, we somehow expect them to sweep us off our feet and treat us to a profound in-store experience. We expect them to dazzle us with their knowledge and helpfulness. It’s delusional.
And our preference for price didn’t only erode wages, it trimmed recruiting costs, eliminated training budgets, slashed worker medical benefits, and put a virtual moratorium on employee corporate mobility. We made it so. We demanded it.