Thursday, October 19, 2000

Why Service Stinks

''We're just putting more of our energies into rewarding our best customers.''
--American Airlines

Business Week has written an article addressing the topic of why customer service has gone downhill in recent years. I've felt that this was because the cost of providing it has gone up (or at least, hasn't gotten cheaper as fast as other things). But this has some good points about market segmentation I hadn't taken into account.

The first part of the article paints a bleak picture of a world where only the wealthy get good customer service. But continuing on, there are some bright points worth noticing. First of all, "Thanks to the Internet, for example, consumers have far better tools to conveniently serve themselves." I get far better customer service from Amazon than I've gotten through most off-line bookstores, all without interacting with a human being. And don't get me started on bad travel agent stories.

But the most interesting part is the admission that companies may not be doing such a great job in their market segmenting. "The problem, of course, is that what someone spends today is not always a good predictor of what they'll spend tomorrow." Nationsbank (now Bank of America) doesn't have me as a customer any more partly because of how they treated me when all I had to deposit was my grad school salary. But I think the best hope may be embodied in this sentence: "In the future, therefore, the service divide may become much more transparent." Somehow, it's not so much lack of service that's annoying -- it's bad service. If companies admitted, "Hey, you're on your own," we might all be a little happier.

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