What Has Become of Customer Service?
Do you remember when “customer service” was a hallmark of good business? Retailers like J.C. Penney and Sam Walton understood their customers were their greatest asset and set about determining how to serve their needs. Somehow that philosophy seems to have gotten lost in the 21st century.
There was a time when sales people could be annoying, hovering over potential buyers, but these days it is almost requires a search party to find a sales associate when needed. Even to make a purchase, often you must trudge across the store to find someone at a cash register to take your payment.
Several weeks ago I bought a costly light bulb to replace one that had burned out above our stove. Last week that replacement bulb burned out. So I went to the name brand hardware store and exchanged it for another. When I got home, however, I opened the sealed package only to find the new bulb cracked in three places.
So I returned to nationally known hardware store again and bought another bulb that had no cracks. But this one did not work either. Judging from the noise it made when jiggled, something inside was broken. It took me three trips to obtain a functioning replacement bulb.
Then the national newspaper I subscribe to – delivered every morning with the local daily paper – failed to arrive. I called the circulation department, received the obligatory “I apologize” and “I’m sorry,” and was assured the periodical would be delivered by 3 p.m. It never arrived!
We often read about the retail industry’s woes, citing declining sales and often blaming purchases made online rather than in stores. Is that any surprise, when retail institutions have reduced customer service to virtually nothing and we can receive as much personalized attention on the Internet?
Penney and Walton built their businesses on genuine interest and concern for their customers, making certain they felt valued and needed. They were men of faith, motivated by biblical passages like “do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12), and “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
Modern-day business, casting aside the foundation of a biblical worldview, chooses a short-term, profit-centered approach. Customers often feel treated like cattle rather than keys for survival in a cut-throat, highly competitive marketplace.
God actually set the best example. He took a “customer service” attitude when He sought to reconcile rebellious humankind to Himself. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” And Jesus declared in Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
If that is not the ultimate in customer service, what is?
Robert J. Tamasy is vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit organization based in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. A veteran journalist, he has written Tufting Legacies (iUniverse); Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace (River City Press); and has coauthored with David A. Stoddard, The Heart of Mentoring (NavPress). For more information, see www.leaderslegacy.com or his blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.comand www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com.
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1. How do you rate customer service these days, especially compared to what you observed and experienced years ago?
2. Why do you think customer service has been deemphasized or reduced by many companies? What do you think has been the impact of such decisions?
3. Would you think revisiting principles of service and concern for others, as presented in the Bible, could be a good thing for many businesses, whether they are retailers or service providers? Why or why not?
4. What is your reaction to the description of the teachings and sacrifice of Jesus Christ as “customer service”? Explain your answer.
NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages: Proverbs 14:15, 18:15, 27:18, 23-27; Colossians 3:17,23; 1 Thessalonians 2:6-12
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