Thursday, March 22, 2012

What Happened to Customer Service?

Times are tough these days, and I understand the need for merchants to cut costs.  The trend seems to be to cut customer service and replace human help with self-checkout and automation.  May I suggest that a little customer service goes a long way to keep customers?

Prices for goods and services are rising at an alarming rate, yet the consumer is often left bagging his own groceries, punching computer buttons, and doing her own banking.  Why are we not objecting to this?  I think it began many years ago at the gas pump.  Admittedly, I'm old enough to remember driving into a gas station, rolling down the window, and saying "fill 'er up."  In addition to the full tank, windows were washed all the way around, and oil was checked.  Americans accepted the idea of pumping our own gasoline as a novel idea a long time ago when gasoline was under $1.00 a gallon.  May I suggest that if I'm now going to pay $4.27 (or more) for gasoline, that possibly a little customer service might be in order?

When ATM machines first came on board, we were promised that we would never pay a fee for using that machine?  I said hogwash.  How many of you are paying a half dollar now and then to use an ATM?

When I first moved to Sacramento in 1973, I set up a checking account and a savings account at Bank of America.  I married my husband in 1976, and he also had his accounts at Bank of America, so we just closed out our separate accounts and began joint accounts there.  At some point Bank of America actually began charging us for the "privilege" of having a savings account  -- at which time we closed that savings account.  Last year they informed us that our Christmas Club account would be permanently closed.  There's customer service for you!  After all these years, I would think that I could walk into the bank and do my banking without being personally attacked by every single teller about the fact that I don't use the ATM machine, and that I don't have a Versateller card.  I shouldn't have to get nasty to get customer service.  If you want me to continue to do my banking in your bank, then provide me with customer service!

Over the years, my family has spent thousands of dollars on groceries at Raley's.  We shopped at less expensive stores when my children were small and the budget was tight.  Stores moved in and out of our area, and at some point after I went back to work full-time, we decided that good fresh vegetables and decent meat at a conveniently located Raley's was worth paying the extra price (although we certainly watch for bargains elsewhere).  Recently, Raley's has begun moving to "self-checkout."  I'm sorry, but if you want me to continue to pay big bucks for good quality fruits, veggies, and meat, then you darned well better provide the customer service to go with it!

Consumers:  We are in a recession.  I suggest that this might be the perfect time to demand better customer service for your dollar.  If they want your money, let them work for it.  Begin doing business with those companies that really want your business.  If they want your business, they will provide that customer service  -- but not until we speak up.

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