Customer Service in the 2020s

Joshua Henslee

1 year ago by joshua

I think the fallout from corona and the toxic nature of social media have resulted in the normalization of poor customer service. Not only are companies burdening their customers but I see them actively trolling, disrespecting and polarizing them.

Being from the South, in-laws being Japanese and working as a traveling, client-facing consultant in the corporate world for some time, I believe I have a handle on how customers should be treated.

Since March 2020, companies have believed it is a good idea to force some requirements on their customers before they walk in the door and/or use their service. While this is totally OK from a moral and law perspective, I believe it is poor business practice. I understand wanting to be safe, but to make your customers do something just to make a purchase adds another barrier to a potential sale. Once all this stuff finally tapers off, some customers will remember the burdens put on to them.

When I moved back to Atlanta in June 2020, my wife and I went to a great, authentic Izakaya that we knew. In that plaza at the time, they were the only restaurant without a mask sign on the door. In June 2020. I asked my wife why that is the case and she said it is because Japanese do not want to burden their customers, they are #1.

(Tangent - somehow, someway in the summer of 2021 they did put a mask sign on the door. I guess it makes sense to add requirements a 15 months after a ‘pandemic’)

Some businesses have taken this a step further and added political messaging to their burdening of the consumer. Sometimes signs will be coupled with “it protects you and me” or have messaging intended to make the customer feel bad if they have an alternate view.

Again, this type of practice is not right or wrong, nor illegal from the private businesses’ perspective. However, it is an added risk to the business. Whether that risk will have actually end up having consequence, I cannot say.

I will not timestamp the link to the video because the entire thing should be watched, but this was a conversation between Isaac Morehouse and TK Coleman in June 2020 discussing some of this stuff. In this video I believe Isaac makes a comment how business are dividing their customers and how he shouldn’t have to know the political affiliation before making a purchase. (at 17:30)

This comment is so true and accurate, as this is not something we naturally think about before spending money. Adding that dimension as a factor is essentially stating “Please don’t buy from me!”.

Lastly in a positive spin, I give an example of a company that did not engage in these practices (while still keeping themselves and others ‘safe’) - none other than the based Chick-Fil-A.

Chick-Fil-A somehow made more money in 2020 than they did in 2019, because they adapted extremely effectively to their customers’ expecations. They did close their dining rooms, but they bolstered their ability to give the customers their orders in the most hassle-free way possible, while still being kind and respectful.

They essentially told their customers, ‘stay in your car and we will handle the rest’. They improved the drive-thru service, and added a ‘curbside pickup’ area. They never imposed restrictions on their customers nor did they take some stance on the current environment. They simply improved their service.

I am not bullish on customer service in the 2020s, but my hope is more companies like Chick-Fil-A pick up the slack from those who are making mistakes, as those will pick up the bag of money that they dropped.