This line at the grocery store is not getting any shorter. When I came in I thought I was only going to get a few things. Now, as I juggle my 14 items (yes, person eyeing me from two people back, I am under the 15-item legal limit for the express line), I scan the other registers for life. Nothing.

Blame it on the recession if you like, but the fact is there are several reasons good service has been dying a slow death.

Seems that today we are at a bit of a crossroads when it comes to customer service. I do want to have my cake and eat it too, as long as someone else makes it, sells it for the right price and can bring it right to my door. Oh yeah, and if I have a problem with the cake, you better fix it or risk my negative feedback or not-so-positive review for all the world to read online.

Thankfully, the staffing business is also picking up and so is customer service again, mostly because customers are now returning our calls. If you’ve been in staffing through the past four or five years, you know that not only were they not calling, you may not have had a person on the other line waiting to answer or call them back.

In staffing we are seeing the results of that lack of customer service in the form of lots of RFPs coming out from not-so-happy customers. I guess everyone expects to be continually “wowed,” even during a recession.

Thank goodness staffing isn’t subject to the same kind of online customer reviews as many other industries like restaurants and hotels.  I can just read the reviews now:

“One star out of five – They want $25 an hour for an engineer with 10+ years of experience! Outrageous. They should be paying me to take these people.”

“Zero stars out of five - Asked for someone with .net experience and they told me that their crack team of recruiters could find programmers who can create a .net, .com or .biz website, just take your pick.”

Forget about what the contractors might say or what they would write in a review.

But I think this is a bigger problem related to technology. Though I am not as addicted to texting as many of the younger generation, I do find myself opting for that instead of the longer phone call. It’s not that I don’t want to talk to you; it’s just that I don’t want to talk to you NOW. And it’s really convenient to choose who I respond to and when.

Which brings me back to my current rant and dilemma with customer service. Sometimes I do want to talk to a real person and sometimes I have questions (that I don’t want to look up on my slow smart phone). But the point is: I want my question answered NOW so I can get on to my next thing, my next call or my next text. We’re all impatient and ready to move on to our next email or text message.

The result: We’ve created a generation of workers in customer service who are similarly impatient with the customer’s problems. Like the guy at the sporting goods store who walks over to the exact same rack I just looked through to tell me, “Nope, we’re all out of that one.” And he quickly moves on to the next thing. Forget looking in the back.

The one recent exception I can point to is a recent trip to Disneyland in California. I bought a t-shirt and the clerk not only noticed there was a small flaw in the decoration, as she was getting a new one she proceeded to give us a great tip on where to eat and watch the fireworks. This impressed me, until I realized I just spent a gazillion dollars to travel to California, get into the park, eat their overpriced food and buy that expensive t-shirt.

Wait. I paid more and got better service? Go figure.

This is one area that staffing needs to keep in mind as business continues to pick up. There is a difference in not only WHO we provide to a customer, but HOW we provide those people. The difference is going to be the staffing companies who can provide better customer service along with better people. And some (unfortunately, not all) customers are willing to pay a little more to get that service.

Back to my grocery line. OK, so I didn’t count EVERY single cat food can as an individual item. Maybe I am up to 18 items (technically). And that person eyeing me with despise two people back just got taken by the hand to the newly opened register by the clerk before I saw that lane was opening. OK, so maybe customer service isn’t totally dead.

But why can’t they just turn on that little light at the register and leave it to natural selection? I think I could have beaten her (and her walker) in a fair foot race, even with my 22 items.

Tags: Rants, Industry, Customer Service, Customer Support