Whatever Happened to Service in America?

For Mary Jones, it was a tough day with the service industry. Her car, a Disaster 200D stalled on Central Expressway while heading for work. She pulled into a gas station, to find it was self-serve only. "Sorry, no attendant," yelled the cashier. "What happened to service stations?" shouted Mary. She left the car, and called a cab, only to wait 45 minutes, and when it arrived, the driver spoke no English and got lost three times. "Some service," thought Mary. She arrived at work and received her first vendor of the day. He was 30 minutes late and rudely offered a flimsy excuse. "And he wants me to buy from him", Mary thought.

Lunch time came and Mary ordered a pizza to be delivered by the Pizza Joke. They said it would be delivered 20 minutes. It arrived 55 minutes later, at the same time as her boss for their 1:30 meeting. "Starvation," thought Mary. After the meeting Mary rushed down to the Quick Slop Deli. She waited in line for half an hour while an irritable clerk threw together sandwiches with one hand and ran the cash register with the other! "How gross!," said Mary, "I can't wait to go on vacation tomorrow."

Mary finally got home and Only Late Airlines called to say they had merged with Tailgate Airlines and were canceling her vacation flight. "This is the last straw," said Mary, reaching for the phone to call another airline. But just then the phone went dead, probably because of the Bell system split-up.

"I can't take anymore!," cried Mary. Just then she opened a bill from a store for two books she'd paid for two months before. It was accompanied by a nasty letter from the credit manager. "They're practically threatening to put me in jail, and I've already paid", said Mary, as she began to search for her canceled check. "That's it!"

A few minutes later a nearly bezerk Mary rushed into the local radio station. "Have I got news for you!," cried Mary, "There is no more service in the United States of America!"

What has happened to service in our country? A story in Time Magazine asked this same question.

Never before has there been as much written, as much hype, on the importance of "service for success". Naisbitt wrote Megatrends and Reinventing The Corporation. Peter's books, In Search Of Excellence and A Passion For Excellence, embraced the same theory. Now, Albrecht and Zemke have a popular book called Service America. All say the same thing: "Service oriented companies and employees have a stronger bottom line and a more loyal customer base."

USA Today ran an article titled "The 1990's: A Hot Decade for Service Firms." There are hundreds of speakers on the subject. Along with seminar titles like "How to Leap Tall Buildings in One Easy Bound", are titles like "Are Your Customers Making You Crazy?" and "Slap Your Customer With A Smile and Win!"

The sad truth is that we've never been told as much and as often that service really does have a high impact on success; and yet, service has never been poorer!

Many of us give lip service to being service minded, then send a form letter, with blanks to be filled in, rudely advising the customer to pay their bill or to renew their contract. Or, we put an untrained, disinterested clerk at the front counter during our busiest day of the week.

The time truly has arrived when genuine concern for the customer counts. We must realize that the way we word our communication has power. Every employee must be people oriented and trained to use their attitude to retain customers, not drive them away.

Often the "speed of the leader is the speed of the gang". Starting with the head of the company all the way to the person who cleans the commodes, all of us must have the same mind set. Years ago, my aunt had a poster in her beauty salon that pictured a large lion with a crown on it's head. The slogan read, "The Customer Is King!" You'd better take that to heart in today's competitive market.

by Anne Sadovsky
one of Multi-housing's foremost marketing and motivational speakers.

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