Bad Customer Service: Why Do We Put Up With It?
Actually, though, while he states it, he doesn’t really argue that at all. Rather, he argues that we’re not willing to pay more for good customer service and thus provide no incentive to companies to provide it.
Let’s say you have two options for a flight from New York to Miami. Everything about the two flights is identical except for two things: One airline has poor customer service, but offers you a ticket for $50 cheaper. Do you take the more expensive flight in order to secure the better customer service at a higher price?
Most people, in fact, buy by price. Which partly explains why airlines have had a race to the bottom in customer service and flying is now only slightly more pleasant than taking a Greyhound bus full of winos.
Then again, there’s not much way of knowing when you buy a ticket which of the two carriers will provide a better experience. Few of us fly enough to have an informed basis for forming a judgment and I’m not aware of any really good independent comparison mechanism. For that matter, carriers known for providing a pleasant experience, like JetBlue, do in fact inspire a certain degree of loyalty; but since they also tend to be cheap, it’s hard to disaggregate the effects.
This illustrates an important point: through consumer demand, we ultimately control customer service. If poor customer service was really bothered us, then we could boycott the worst of the perpetrators. I happen to be one of the few people who sticks to a boycott when I’ve been terribly wronged, but I think I’m in the minority. (For example, I haven’t eaten Taco Bell in more than 10 years after swearing it off due to an exceptionally bad experience.) Most people have a very short memory when it comes to bad customer service, especially when low prices entice them return to the company where they experienced annoyance last time.
Most of us, I think, will quickly stop going to restaurants that serve lousy food or treat us rudely. There are plenty of ready substitutes, after all. It’s harder, though, for other things. For example, I refuse to shop at the local Wal-Mart, despite it being conveniently located and typically lower prices, because the shopping experience is so bloody awful. But it took repeated frustration with the store to instill that because the alternatives are a Target store that’s much nicer but farther away or numerous stops at specialty stores.
This is especially problematic with chain stores. If I’m treated poorly by at a sole proprietorship, I can assume that this will be the norm and discontinue shopping there. But one’s experience at a 7-11 really tells you very little about your next trip to that 7-11, let alone how other 7-11s operate.
Regardless, Indiviglio’s larger point is true. For example, hatred of automated customer service systems (For assistance with installing applications on your iPhone, please press 17) is universal. Yet they’re now the norm. They’re obviously cheaper than giving customers what they want — a real, live operator instantly –and customers put up with it.