Why it’s time to bring service back to 100%

The pandemic changed many things. Industries everywhere are still suffering from labor shortages and supply issues. But as we move into 2023, the sense of normalcy in business regarding customer service seems to have shifted. During the height of the economic disruption of the past two years, many services and quality controls were set aside as businesses struggled to do more with less. But those times are fading and fading fast.

We still see the repercussions of the struggle to return to normal. Some businesses realized they could cut budgets by removing certain amenities. A small but effective example is your local coffee house. They used to provide unlimited access to cream and sugar. But as the world returns to normal, they still require guests to ask for it. Is it because the supply is low, or did they realize they could save money by keeping the condiments behind the counter?

How often have you recently called customer service, and when they finally answered, you discovered the person on the other end was clearly answering your call from home? Let’s say you are calling a financial institution, and the person on the other end is distracted by a baby crying or a dog barking in the background. They apologize and try to listen to your issue. How much faith do you have in that institution when you hang up?

The societal shift is tangible as many businesses keep certain safety protocols in place, such as the disappearing condiments. Many are still struggling to regain capital, while others are using the pandemic to save costs or, even worse use it as an excuse for just about anything they can’t provide. 

While there are still labor and supply chain shortages, many of us often wonder, is it really the pandemic? Or is that an excuse because they are saving money on the extras they used to provide?

While we want to sympathize and understand that some businesses are still struggling to stay afloat, others are using the situation to deflect the need to return to quality service. It feels as if we are living in a society where 80 percent of service performance is acceptable. In the past, this would never do. The customer is king, right? Not anymore.

Getting Back to Key Performance Indicators

The acceptance of lower quality standards is quickly becoming ingrained as the world re-evaluates what is important and what isn’t. But it shouldn’t be that way. From a vendor perspective, we need to get back to 100 percent quality service metrics and reinstate key performance indicators. 

While our customers had more patience and kindness often reigned over the past several years, the time is coming soon when that patience will begin to wear thin. We need to forgo the excuses, stop blaming the situation and take a hard look at KPIs, not only from a sales perspective but, more importantly, from a service perspective. 

Those companies that maintained 100 percent service satisfaction should be at the top of your vendor list. It’s time to re-evaluate purchasing decisions from a service, support and execution standpoint. Take a look at those vendors that dropped the ball before evaluating new contracts. 

If you haven’t done so, perhaps it is time to add new evaluation parameters when engaging with vendors. Before contracting with any vendor, ask these key questions:

  • Does the company have service and support teams available when you need them? 
  • Did they answer their phones during the worst of times?
  • Are they based in your country? In other words, will they be able to help you or is the operator simply following a script to vet your issue before pawning you off to another operator?
  • What kind of service references can they provide? 
  • Have you created service and support KPIs that are included in the contracts you are signing?

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

At the end of the day, it all comes down to whether your vendor can maintain a 100 percent level of service, even in the worst of times. What we do know is that the world is shifting. Lower standards are being created and often accepted without question. 

Good times lay ahead, but we know there may be more disruption in our market. In the hospitality industry, the No. 1 concern is customer service and providing the best guest experience possible. It is the very nature of hospitality. Why ask for anything less from the vendor community? 

This is a call to action for vendors, suppliers and service organizations everywhere to reclaim 100 percent customer service metrics. Eighty percent should not be good enough. It never was in the past, and it shouldn’t be now. The time for making excuses is over, and we all need to pull together to find our way back to excellent customer service. 

The time is coming when we all need to put our foot down and say, “Enough! Where are the sugar packets!”

Alexander Perovich is the co-founder Think Simplicity.