Are we nearing the end of customer service? It feels like it

Customer service is nothing it used to be. We used to know Bob down the road at the corner store,
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Customer service is nothing it used to be.

We used to know Bob down the road at the corner store, and could rely on seeing Kerry every week across the counter at the bank. People smiled, and most importantly: people cared.

Most people here have been on both sides of the customer experience – they have had customer-facing jobs and they’ve been a consumer and know the importance of the role on both sides. The same is likely in younger generations. But I’m left aghast today more frequently than ever before at the counters of shops where there used to be service. As the world gets faster, being a valued customer seems to mean less than it used to, and given the state of the economy it also leaves us wondering whether it is less than it should.

Given the choice do you value the customer service when it is offered to you?

It seems society today is learning to operate without customer service roles – we now put our own groceries in a bag, do online banking and can look up the answer to any question in an instant without the help of another human being. We could go days without talking to someone and still get everything we need. It truly makes you wonder if customer service will be a thing of the past in the next 5 to 10 years. And that makes me a little sad. Sure, we’ll have a highly functioning society, but will it be one where people enjoy living?

I can’t bear to think of what might happen to those people who are regulars at coffee shops and restaurants, only to one day turn up and a machine hands them their latte. Then they walk down the road and their local family corner store has turned into a robot-operated organisation, essentially ripping the heart out of its community. It feels like businesses think we just want fast, streamlined service, instead of the personal, attentive customer service we deserve. Not everyone values speed over a nice conversation.

We all love the relief of speaking to a real person on the phone, but what happens when even these call centre jobs are entirely led off-shore to shed costs, or even are outsourced fully to robots and computers? Where will this leave our jobs and our growing population? It’s very worrying.

Some readers have told us, whenever their at the supermarket, they make a point of going to the actual checkout to be served by an actual person, versus the self-serve. They want these staff to know they are still useful and needed, for more than just scanning our groceries, but also so we can interact and stay human.

Our technological world is turning our youth into drones who are glued to their screens and who prefer to speak to their friends over Facebook than face-to-face, but surely it can’t take away another thing we cherish – good old-fashioned customer service?

It’s hard to tell. When we asked you “Do you miss the days when everyone know your name and you could have a good chat at the shops?”, you responded in droves.

Cheryl, who owns a cafe, said, “I now have terrific ladies – not all girls anymore due to the fact that most younger Gen Y have little or no idea of what is good customer service so I made a stand and employed over 40 very experienced people who know what I want and need in a regional part of NSW. We know our customers by name and coffee and have a lot of fun with them, that’s whats it about: stopping for a second and acknowledging them even for a minute in a busy day. Some live on their own and their only outing is to my cafe. Plus hubby and I have LIFE skills that the younger ones don’t have”.

Sandra, who’s recently retired from a retail position, gave another perspective: “The trouble is time. There isn’t enough time for a friendly chat when there’s a long line waiting to be served. Trust me, many a time I would have loved to chat to some very interesting people, but that puts a strain on the rest of the staff. And people are very impatient these days. And some customers are quite rude. I’ve seen young girls (staff) run to the lunchroom crying because of angry customers. That upsets the whole day for everyone”.

And when one of our writers spoke about one of her good customer experiences in store, you also told us about your good and bad experiences.

The jury is still out on whether we can have fast service that’s personal, before it’s too late.

What do you think? Do you think we need better customer service? Or do you prefer fast service over a chat?

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