I’m writing to complain about vendors – more specifically, the way they’re engaging with customers these days. They seem to forget that we’re the ones paying their salaries; one of the ways to exhibit their commitment to us is by making themselves available. It’s part of what we pay for when we choose their product – a differentiator, if you will.
But now there’s little differentiation: most vendors have reduced us to faceless numbers, to a sort of currency: in exchange for us making a purchase, they take our time, our loyalty, our good will and fail to deliver any meaningful connection when we need support. Personally, I’m getting really annoyed.
Here are some situations I’ve faced lately:
After hours of research and thought, I decided to purchase a somewhat pricey, certainly unnecessary, personal item. I decided to buy it directly from the manufacturer and pay the extra bucks to get the service they offered. When attempting to purchase the item, I was immediately hit with a near-page-sized popup that wouldn’t go away unless I hit ‘allow’. I looked up ‘contact’ and was given two options: email or chat. OK. Maybe a bot could help me buy the damn thing. I asked chat how to get rid of the popup so I could buy the item and was told to just hit ‘Allow’ and then buy it! Nope. They obviously want my name more than my money. Next.
Yesterday, I went to Baskin Robbins to get my bi-monthly hot fudge sundae. I’ve gotten the exact same thing for years: hot fudge, jamoca-almond fudge ice cream (the regular scoops, not the smaller sundae scoops), and extra nuts. I laid out the $6 I’ve always paid and was told I owed $2.50. What?? The associate said it was for the larger scoops and the extra nuts. But I’ve never paid extra for those things and I’ve been coming here for 7 years! I knew the kids that worked there, and the owners Joe and Annette were terrific! “The original owner sold the store. I was trained by corporate. I’m charging you according to the rules.” But why wasn’t I told there might be different prices? I’ve always paid $6! “The prices are right there on the menu. You should have read them.” I see you’re putting rules before people, said I. “Yup. Just doing my job.” Precisely. I wonder how many customers came regularly because it was like family and who will now be seen as rule-followers.
Last week, I had to go through the rigamarole of returning an Amazon item. I waited 45 minutes in a long line at Whole Foods because the scanner was broken. I remembered when I could call Amazon directly and they’d send me a link to drop the package off at Mailboxes Etc. Thankfully I rarely send anything back (This was a defective item.), but I’ll certainly rethink my choice of vendor with an unknown item.
And don’t even start me on the lost, wasted time I’ve spent – hours and hours! – waiting for customer service reps to answer. Once, waiting to solve a huge tech problem with Best Buy (who I paid for tech support), I was put on hold for 13 hours! They finally called at 3:00 A.M.! The techie said to my sleeping, groggy self, ‘Hi. How are you?’ “Well, it’s 3:00 a.m. and I’ve been on hold for 13 hours, so not a particularly happy camper.” And he hung up on me!
What about the self-checkout at the grocery stores? I used to have lovely chats with the cashiers. One Wal-Mart cashier said she’d like to make my day by subtracting $1 from each purchase! I didn’t save much money, but it made me smile and revisit that particular store frequently. What about airline agents? They always found creative, cheaper routes with great travel tips. When I made hotel reservations I seemed to charm the clerks into giving me best rooms, or special rates.
What about customer service folks who used to be available in each company to answer questions? Gone! All switched to digital, to screens and confusing choices, with no way to pose questions except sending emails that won’t be returned or ‘talking ‘ to those stupid chatbots who always seem to have the wrong answer.
Now I’m left scrolling down some corporate site trying to figure out options, and getting more and more annoyed.
How did we end up so commodified that our value, our worth as customers, is merely a function of a company’s profit and greed? I wonder if companies have tested customer loyalty pre- and post-digital. Surely there must be a falloff. I wonder what it’s costing them.
Being able to complete tasks digitally doesn’t mean it should be the only choice. And certainly digital can’t be that much cheaper in the long run. I miss the old times when I could speak with someone human. Am I the only one unhappy? I sure hope it reverts, and vendors realize that caring for customers is part of their promise.
Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including her new book HOW? Generating new neural circuits for learning, behavior change and decision making, the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. www.sharon-drew.com She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sharon Drew Morgen February 12th, 2024
Posted In: News