A Call for Change in Service Industry
April 10, 2023
Have you ever been let down by a service company that you thought had your back? Disappointing, right? My bad experience made me muse about the roots of that phenomenon after a company I counted on screwed me up at a very untimely moment when I desperately needed it.
My story began five or six years ago when, while walking up my street to my home, I saw a service truck and a couple of guys fussing around my next-door neighbor's car. It looked like they were fixing something in his car. Having a traditional every Friday evening beer chat that I have with my neighbor. I inquired about those folks who were bustling around his car. And then I heard for the very first time about that service company. I'd rather not name them here so as not to promote them and because their name is irrelevant to my story. My neighbor was very pleased with what they had done - fueled his car, checked tire pressure, and washed the vehicle, claiming that all of this was "awfully convenient." He saved a lot of time by not having to wait in lines at the gas station. It attracted me too, and I eagerly subscribed for $30 a month.
Initially, I placed my orders by calling the company and speaking to their friendly staff. They were accommodating and even joked with me, which added a pleasant touch to the experience. I appreciated the opportunity to ask them additional questions and felt that the business had a welcoming personality. After some time, the company offered me their mobile app, which was allegedly designed for clients' convenience. The app underwent several updates, and as a result, the interface became more complex due to the addition of new features. Nonetheless, it remained user-friendly.
Well, it was smooth sailing until I had to drive to a conference in Reno, which is 250 miles away. I thought I had it all under control, having ordered fuel, a car wash, tire checking, and windshield fluid two days in advance. But apparently, the universe had other plans for me.
The next day, they hit me with the classic "system glitch" excuse. So I called their customer service hotline, and it was like being stuck in a time loop with a robot that kept saying, "Your call is very important to us...." Yeah, right, and I'm the King of England.
When finally got through to a human, I was told in a cold and matter-of-fact manner that they couldn't fulfill my order because they currently have too many orders from other clients on this day. I mean, sure, I'm happy for them and their booming business, but what about my needs? The disappointment I felt was akin to a child's reaction upon finding out they're out of ice cream. After experiencing good service, it's hard to settle for anything less.
The night I had before my trip was definitely one to remember. As I was traveling alone, so I had to spend hours getting my automobile ready. I refueled my car, inspected the tires, and made sure everything was in working order. I was worn out and anxious since I knew I was neglecting to do crucial tasks before my vacation. My presentation, the last-minute packing, and catching up with my loved ones all went out of the window. That is why I was left feeling incredibly let down and dissatisfied because I had ordered a service that was supposed to make my life easier.
I questioned how a business could have let me down so drastically and felt deceived when I was driving to Reno. "I had ordered, after all, two days beforehand." "Didn't they have enough time to plan?" "They could have given the job to some of their partners, perhaps." I was thinking about all of these things.
When I got to the seminar, my fellow attendees questioned me about my trip. I couldn't help but mention the issue, and it quickly came up in conversation. We had a discussion about who was at fault and what could be done to stop this from happening again.
As I got home, I made the decision to look up the service provider's reviews. I was overwhelmed to see the terrible reviews and learn that I wasn't the only one who had been let down. I couldn't help but wonder why we place such a high level of faith in organizations that don't respect our time and money as I pondered the meaning of life. Rather than dwelling on the negative, I channeled my energy into identifying ways to improve the services.
After some reflection, I can say it could happen to businesses due to a lack of competition or too much addiction to technologies. It's understandable; technologies like mobile applications, chatbots, and other innovations allow serving a greater number of clients with less spending on staff. In the absence of competition, they totally rely on statistics that state that when 3–5% of clients cancel service, 10% clientele growth nonetheless provides a profit boost. And if they're lucky enough to have a monopoly on their market, they'll just sit back and let the profits roll in like a lazy river, even if it means ignoring the little guys like me.
The lack of personalization and poor communication are quite typical for businesses. The prevalence of robotic and standardized services has left us feeling disconnected from the true essence of quality service. Unfortunately, many companies succumb to the demands of investors, leading to cost-cutting measures that ultimately replace human interaction with technology, causing the quality of service to suffer.
That is why hyperlocal businesses that can use technology as well as businesses but still keep a personal touch have a good chance of doing well. As for me, I would much rather deal with a business that is within a couple of miles of me. The thought of being able to call Tom, Jessica, or Pradeep and having a chance to talk to a human who knows you and your needs makes me excited. Haven't the days of personal, on-demand service come? Aren't people sick of robotic and uniform services?
Yes, indeed, IT technologies can make things right for hyperlocal businesses just as well as they do for big ones now. Why don't we shift our preferences from the big guys to local, family-run businesses with a human touch to encourage their development?