Entitlement or Customer Service?

Expectations of good customer service sometimes conflict with entitlement mindsets—especially as performance thresholds become ever-more robust.

So, when Amazon Prime guarantees one-day delivery and doesn’t meet their commitment, are irritated customers acting entitled or are they justifiably upset?

I maintain it’s the latter in most cases. The problem is that companies offering this type of performance are setting the consumer expectation bar extremely high. Then customers are unhappy when the commitment isn’t kept.

Often, it’s the fault of the company for overpromising and underdelivering. We see it all the time in telecom, transportation and travel, among other industries. Grandiose promises unkept are then too often met with a shrug of the shoulders or outright hostility when consumers demand accountability.

In their marketing zeal, companies need to back off and offer promises they’re prepared and willing to keep. Then, a large portion of the consuming public will be satisfied because performance matches, or even exceeds, commitment.

That said, there obviously are instances when entitlement takes over. I’ll revisit an Amazon example. Last spring, a delivery was delayed beyond the guaranteed time because of inclement weather. I didn’t expect, or even want, the delivery on-time as road conditions could have imperiled the driver. That’s in the realm of realistic expectations.

However, I’m sure there were people complaining mightily about their delayed packages. That’s an entitlement mentality: “I want what I want when I want it…and no excuses.”

A crucial part of top-notch customer service is aligning company commitments with consumer expectations. Overpromising and underdelivering does everyone a disservice. The company looks bad, employees often get the brunt of customer dissatisfaction, and customers themselves are unhappy.

Realistically, what will slow down this insane rush, rush, rush and return the world to a more “reasonable” place? Mother Nature. Just as there are physical laws that we must abide by, at least for now (e.g., we’ve yet to master traveling at the speed of light), there are practical limits to how much, how fast, how cheap and how good anyone can be.

There’s a reason that the adage, “Fast, good or cheap. Pick two” has been cited so often. Speed, quality and price challenges typically are daunting. Those working toward attaining all three simultaneously will typically be stymied. Even as companies break through the ceiling and seemingly accomplish the triple play, there will be other problems.

For example, “cheap price” may come at the extraordinarily high price of employee wellbeing and safety. Pushing ever harder will backfire at some point, as Amazon is currently seeing with the constant chatter about how employees are pushed beyond reasonable limits.

Let’s all take a breath, get some perspective, and re-evaluate priorities here. Customer service has many facets, and there are many inter-relationships. Perhaps lofty customer service objectives will be best served by re-examining reasonable expectations and regearing commitments accordingly.

For example, I vote for a return to a slower Amazon fulfillment/delivery model that enables keeping commitments that don’t unduly burden a variety of stakeholders.

In this era of fake news and fast communication, company reputation is more vulnerable than ever to one negative headline or storyline. Strong customer service ratings over a substantial period of time can limit the damage, showing a pattern of competence and caring that supersedes isolated hits to a reputation. Building and maintaining a positive customer service image is one critical key to business success in the 2020s.

Do you have customer service snafus or stellar experiences to share? If so, feel free to comment on this post or email your thoughts to mark@marklusky.com.

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Mark Lusky is a veteran writer, storyteller and author, with 40+ years of public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism experience.

Author of A Wandering Wondering Jew… and co-author of Don’t Get Mad, Get Leverage,  Mark (aka The Happy Curmudgeon) is the owner of a Denver-based marketing communications firm.

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