Customer service levels have fallen “significantly over the past decade”.
That’s the verdict of the West Yorkshire Business Jury run by Holmfirth accountancy practice V&A Bell Brown.
The Business Jury is made up of 12 business owners and directors drawn from the West Yorkshire area. The jury’s majority verdict was returned by V&A Bell Brown managing partner Amanda Vigar.
She said: “I would, without doubt, say that standards of customer service are slipping and that things are only getting worse.
“You only have to walk into practically any shop on any high street to be faced with miserable-looking shop assistants who wouldn’t know real polite customer service if it hit them in the face.
“Nowadays, customers are invariably treated to a grunt and a look that says ‘God, I don’t really want to be here; why should I bother!’ while being served.
“I believe the rot set in around 10 years ago with the pervasive media culture which bleated ‘you too are special; you deserve anything you want now!’
Mike Funnell, of Power Tool Services, echoed Amanda’s views, citing the internet as a reason of this decline.
He said: “In today’s age, you don’t seem to be able to communicate directly to people, as they are hiding behind computer screens and phones, which is a result of the internet de-personalising things, as people turn to shopping online.”
Stephen Callaghan, owner of Enterprise Print Works, agreed, in the sense that the growth of online shopping has affected the way in which people are dealt with and believes that, unfortunately, it is something that consumers will have to get used to.
“With online shopping – and especially with dealing with call centre workers – you sometimes get the impression that they aren’t really interested over the phone, but many shops and businesses have measures in place to provide customers with the service that they expect,” he said.
Charles Brook, principal of Brook Business Recovery, believes that there has been a fall in customer service standards and that the need for immediate results in business has meant that customer service process has been neglected.
He said: “I believe that in time, the businesses that go out of their way and positively demonstrate good standards of customer service at the point of delivery are the ones that people will appreciate and remember.”
Jon Law, director at Toripops, was one of the few members of the jury who felt that customer service had improved, but feels there are some issues that still need to be addressed.
He said: “Overall, customer service has improved, but I think that companies need to take the steps necessary to ensure that any mistakes are resolved by training its staff. However, this can take a long time to implement, so although customer service has improved, there is still some way to go.”
Mark Sanderson, director at QED Finance, believes that customer service is neglected by management, especially in call centres.
He said: “Customer service, especially in the shape of a call-centre, is to customers one of the most visible and significant aspect of organisational performance and to many organisations, customer service is one of the most challenging and neglected areas of management, including those with modern call-centres.”
The co-founder of Juice Learning, Morgan Wilson, believes that if companies are to survive customer service has to be at a high standard, and to achieve this, employers must be able to motivate their staff.
He said: “Most organisations recognise that service is about more than just delivering customer satisfaction, this implies doing the minimum to avoid complaints!”
David Richter, of Coral Homes UK, said: “I believe it is because of a change in society where we have seen basic manners go out of the window, which reflects in the service we receive. “Please” and “thank you” don’t seem to be said as much, which is maybe because of the speed of texting, Twitter and other forms of social media.”
Dot Goodhall, president of The Nerve Centre, said: “It is primarily a problem with the retail sector and they should really be looking at initiating a root and branch audit of their customer service procedures.
“Customer service assistants are the public face of a business, so it is vital that the friendliest and most polite attitude is presented.
“I believe we have almost come to accept shoddy customer service as a matter of course when it should actually be the exception and not the rule.”