Business as Usual in a Rude Nation

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When I got my start in the workforce, it was 1992. My first job was as a hostess in a local restaurant, and then I worked as a sales associate in a men’s department store. At both businesses, my lasting impression to this day was the degree to which management emphasized customer service. I was only 16, but I was taught that the customer is always right, that it’s important to do everything you can to meet the customer’s needs, and that you must take personal responsibility for your actions and attitudes on the job.

In the two decades that have passed, however, things have definitely changed. While some businesses and companies continue with a diligent focus on fine-tuning the customer experience, the majority has lost that passion. In fact, it seems as though there is no acknowledgement or care, maybe, of the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you’d have done to you” seems to be lost in time, replaced, instead, with: “I expect to be treated better than I am willing to treat others.”

We have, in essence, become a Rude Nation.

As a businesswoman, but also as a consumer, I have a true love for customer service. Some people might even say that I’m obsessed with it. A few years ago, I had a hunch that I wasn’t alone in my disappointment over its disappearance. So, I leveraged some resources and put together a survey that I posted on Facebook, Twitter, my business website, and that I sent to a contact list by email.

I asked a series of questions about customer service, overall impressions, personal experiences (both good and bad), and thoughts on improvement. What I found to be most surprising—and contrary to the beliefs of many managers—was the unanimous “yes” received in response to the following question:

Would you pay more for the same product or service in order to get a better customer experience?

In the time since the survey, I have come across much more evidence to this effect. Just recently, the U.S. News and World Report revealed results to a study that found that 68% of the customers that leave a business, do so because of poor or indifferent service. This is compared to the only 9% that leave because of price.

What I want managers to understand is that customer service is so important it can actually be leveraged as a company’s primary competitive advantage in today’s world. Consumers want it, they are hungry for it, and they will pay for it. And, in this column, I am going to show you how your business can give it to them.

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About Author

Amy Day

Amy Day is the Associate Publisher and a contributing writer for Strategy Magazine. She has an MBA in Marketing Communications and Strategic Leadership from Southern Methodist University and has been on staff with Strategy for nearly a decade. She is an award-winning business executive with customer service credentials from the Disney Institute. In addition to editorial oversight, her regular beat includes business, customer service, publishing, and family/child wellness.

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