Service crew

What can be done about declining customer service?

From airlines canceling flights at the last minute to hotels not cleaning rooms during multi-night stays to professionals in many industries not showing up for service appointments to commodities that just aren’t available in stores, the rapid decline in customer service is evident almost everywhere in American society in 2022.

Due to staffing shortages, rising inflation, and pandemic-related issues, customer dissatisfaction and frustration are at record highs. Expectations are changing now as fast food isn’t fast anymore and help desks aren’t as helpful – if you can actually talk to someone.

Here are some related titles to consider:


CNN — “American airline passengers are not happy. Here’s why”: “Airports are packed, flights are packed, and air travel in the United States and beyond is in full swing.

“But the return to the skies in the wake of the pandemic hasn’t been entirely smooth: Passengers seem more ill-mannered than ever, flight cancellations are becoming more common, and airlines are raising fares to as fuel prices soar.”

Business Intern — “Global hotel room prices soar, but crowd of 5-star vacationers remain unfazed despite lackluster service due to labor shortages”: “Global hotel prices rose 184 % compared to a year ago, according to Travel Daily Media.This is due to a sudden increase in travel demand, a shortage of manpower and a shortage of rooms.

“The reasons for the reduction in room capacity vary: while a few hotels have used the travel downtime to renovate, the majority cannot fully reopen due to a labor shortage caused by hotels that let staff stay afloat at the height of the pandemic, Lim added. .

“In March, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the leisure and hospitality industry was facing a quit rate of 5.7%. The high quit rate is primarily due to the burnout of service staff, many of whom had to double shifts to replace colleagues who were made redundant, by The Economist.”

Conde Nast Traveler — “Traveler satisfaction with US airlines is at its lowest since the start of the pandemic”: “Summer travel has officially started, and one thing is certain: travelers are not satisfied with the airlines American airlines. Not only has there been a recent spike in flight cancellations, but customers are also unhappy with the service on board aircraft.

“In fact, passenger satisfaction with North American airlines in 2022 is down 20 points from last year, according to a recent JD Power survey. Passengers in all cabins have been unhappy with US airlines over the past year, with the survey showing satisfaction numbers dropping in Basic Economy Class, Regular Economy Class, Premium Economy Class and even in first and business class. The average satisfaction score this year was 798 on a scale of 1,000, according to JD Power.

“A variety of issues seem to be driving the anger of air travellers. Passenger satisfaction fell “sharply” across all areas of the survey, which measured what customers thought of the plane, baggage handling, the boarding process, check-in, flight crew and in-flight services.

And no, these questions are not entirely a totally new trend. Going back to June 2020, we see this:

‘Customer service is worse than ever, and so is consumer rage: “Customer service is worse than ever and more people are furious about it, according to a new survey from Arizona State University.”

However, I believe the trend is currently accelerating in June 2022, which is why I am writing this blog now.

HOW “MORE FOR LESS” NOW MEANS “LESS FOR MORE”

Almost everywhere you turn in 2022, the decline in customer service is evident. These trends are not just about travel and dining, but are affecting every industry.

Throughout my career, I have heard many public and private sector organizations use the term “more for less” in various contexts; however, the meaning was generally “more value (or quantity or quality) for less money (or cost)”.

Over the past few months, I’ve heard friends, colleagues, and family members use the term “more for less” to mean more money for less product, essentially changing the meaning 180 degrees. For example, I just heard someone say that it costs him $100 for gas in his truck, and he didn’t even fill the tank he used to fill for less than $50 .

SOLUTION, PLEASE

So what can we do to help in these difficult times?

I like this Forbes article with 15 tips to help you: “Here’s how to maintain customer service, even when you’re short-staffed.”

Here are the first five items listed, with a brief explanation:

1. Take care of your employees

If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers. Be sure to follow up constantly to make sure they feel seen, heard and supported. Let them know that you understand they’re in a tough spot, but you’re in the proverbial hole with them. -Brian Hennessy, Talkoot, Inc.

2. Be proactive, not reactive

Stay focused on being proactive rather than reactive. Increase touchpoints, where and when appropriate. Lead with empathy. Embrace customer interactions via email, voice, and in-person with a mindset of listening first to understand. While it’s natural to focus on efficiency, it shouldn’t come at the expense of the goal. – Gregory Roll, Touchpoint Partners

3. Let them know you care

Communicate often! Let them know that you, as a leader, care about them and listen to them. Teamwork and recognition are absolutely essential in times of staff shortages. Something as simple as a company lunch with a pizza brought in can boost morale at a fraction of the cost of losing a good employee. – Natalie Barnes, Business Alliance Inc.

4. Create a supportive space

Managers need to connect with employees to create space for support during times of stress. When employees feel supported, they are able to ensure that their level of customer support is recognized and that they feel valued. – Roxanne Derhodge, Roxanne Derhodge Consulting

5. Focus your team on your main accounts

In today’s economic conditions, executives often think that the main customer issues are price, lead times and product availability. But the number one customer need is engagement. This means more communication, collaboration and visibility. For customer service, you should prioritize your top accounts which are responsible for most of your revenue and profit. Focus your workforce accordingly. -Dave Philippi, Strategex

FINAL THOUGHTS

This subject affects Americans in different ways, and I have experienced this frustration firsthand over the past three months. The situation seems to be getting worse as prices rise for harder-to-find products and services.

I see many organizations using more self-service and electronic options to help improve customer satisfaction in both the public and private sectors. While this can certainly help cut costs and provide an alternative that requires less staff, make sure your customers have a way to speak with a live person when and if they need it.

No matter how good your apps or website are at helping resolve issues and enabling customer service, there is no substitute for someone who is helpful, caring, and available in a timely manner. This is even true for technology roles and cybersecurity professionals.