Is Client Service a Lost Art?

client.service.trends.jpgClient service trends

I’m a professional event planner/curator, which by definition makes me a service industry professional. It’s an aspect of my job which I take quite seriously – to be sure, as a premium brand my company’s offerings of live customized trivia entertainment & NYC team building events aren’t cheap, with a large portion of that premium attributed to the high level of service which my clients expect and deserve.

New York City is full of other “premium” brands which command high fees for their services. I always assumed that, like me, those service providers who charge a lot should be able to back up their claims of excellence with – well, excellent service.

And yet, I’ve been questioning this basic assumption of late.

In the past month, I’ve had the following things happen to me as a client of other “premium” brands:

  • Staying in a 5-star hotel for a romantic getaway with my wife, my pre-arranged surprise order of Champagne & strawberries failed to appear; the room was also never made up.
  • A cookie delivery I ordered from one of Manhattan’s most expensive bakeries – which I have a longstanding business relationship with – failed to arrive at a client’s office, because the delivery guy – who actually made it INTO the building’s lobby – couldn’t reach my contact there via phone, and didn’t think to call me or leave it with reception, so he left. With the cookies.
  • Leasing a new car from a major brand’s dealer this weekend, I was told I’d get a call finalizing the deal the following day – which, of course, never came. The day after, I was told I’d get a call by 9am, yet by the end of THAT day, still nothing. As of this writing, I’m still waiting for a call finalizing the deal. Mind you, we’ve already agreed on everything – and this is a new CAR we’re talking about.
  • I purchased some expensive advertising with a major media outlet which was guaranteed to generate exposure among my target corporate audiences, however after a month I’d received exactly zero new leads. When I raised my concerns, the sales guy’s solution was – you guessed it – to buy MORE expensive advertising!

Now, does my frustrating month as a consumer of “premium” goods & services mean that client service is dead? Of course not. However, the fact that extremely well-known service brands which have built reputations based on quality, dependability and excellence can fail to deliver basic client care is enough to give me pause, and wonder: what’s going on here? Where does this erosion of service quality stem from?

Given the crush of the economic downturn, must consumers of “premium” brands simply be resigned to expect less than they did 10, 5 or even 1 year ago? Does a need for broader client bases among even the most expensive, top-rated brands necessitate a reduction in the very service for which they are known?

I, for one, refuse to believe so. As the world becomes ever flatter and services – even specialized ones – become commodities, the only way businesses can truly differentiate themselves is through the quality and dependability of service that they provide. The difference between Brand X and Brand Y isn’t merely their prices, but how quickly they answer the phone, respond to your needs, deliver what they say they will and, when required, go above and beyond to not just meet, but exceed your expectations.

Client service may not yet be a “lost art,” but I fear it’s definitely fading. This client service professional, however, won’t see it go without a fight.

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