(NOTE: This was originally a post in February 2016.)

What is a business without customers? The answer should be, a defunct company. But unfortunately, there are a lot of businesses that are not only surviving, but thriving, despite a complete absence of customer service.

Once upon a time in the corporate gig, I was dealing with FedEx. These cats delivered stuff to my company’s offices every single day. Normally, the only problem I had is that once FedEx delivers, the Mail Services people move the package from the loading dock to my desk only when they felt like it, usually making me wait up to 2 days to get something. But this time it was worse. I bought a couple of personal things and had them shipped to the office, because my apartment complex does not accept deliveries. I made this purchase on February 5. On February 12, I checked the tracking number and found that FedEx hasn’t delivered the package because they…. Wait for it….. can’t find the address. Yes, the same address they deliver to every day. After 3 weeks of back & forth with them, they returned the package to the shipper, noting on the tracking number, “requested more info from customer, received no response.” Really? What about all these conversations I’ve been having with “customer service” for 3 weeks?

I’m sure you have similar stories. Companies are increasing in their indifference to customers. I think this is mainly because they view us not as people, but as revenue streams. We are means to an end, that end being profits. Just get this creature in front of you to buy something. Don’t worry about how you “treat” them, just get them to buy something. If they claim we did something wrong, the only proper response is “deny, deny, deny.” If they keep complaining, abandon them. 

Now, I’m a capitalist, and I have no issue with any person or company trying to make as much money as possible. But you have to remember that your customers are human beings, with needs that the company needs to be sensitive to. But too many of them just don’t think that way.

The absolute worst companies to abandon their customers are the airlines, national banks, and cell phone companies. With all 3 of these groups, mergers have left us with about 4 choices – American, United, Delta and Southwest airlines, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Citibank and US Bank in banking, and AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile for cell phones (and T-Mobile is trying to buy Sprint to reduce the choices further). These companies have figured out that most of us can’t live without them. Need to get to London? You can’t drive there. Everybody needs a bank account, and the national options give you the most places to get cash without the double-ATM fees (you know, the “we’re charging you a fee for not using our ATM” fee and the “you don’t have an account here, so we’re charging you a fee” fee). And in this day and age, it’s getting harder to go without a smartphone. These companies know they only have to treat us just well enough to choose them over the 3 or 4 other choices, so there is no need to go out of the way to treat the customer well. Of course, if we’re with another company and hint to a competitor that we might switch, they’ll treat us like kings and queens – but only until they have us locked into a long-term commitment, then we’re treated poorly like the rest of the crowd.

So what can we do? With airlines and banks, you can choose smaller options, like the super-low-fare airlines or regional and community banks. You can do like I do, which is protest at a very loud volume. Mainly, we have to let these companies know when they are treating their customers like sheep, and that is wrong. And we can set the example by treating our customers with respect and caring. If enough of us do it, maybe it will become a good fungus that spreads around.

How can we treat customers with respect? One way is to give them the time they need, without trying to rush them along. If time seems short, you can hire a Virtual Assistant to create great content for your website or blog, or some other tasks. Click here to contact us and let’s talk about how we can make your business be even more efficient and customer-friendly.

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