Customer entitlement didn’t happen in a vacuum. Technology and marketing both have fueled it into a white hot blaze.
An article by Claudia Conlon in MKTGinsight (voice of the Direct Marketing Club of New York) looks at today’s landscape. Conlon writes: “We’ve entered into a ‘give an inch, expect [a] mile’ era of marketing, where nearly all consumers have become entitled ones, constantly demanding personalized service of the highest quality. Think about it: You’re on a plane, hurtling 30,000 miles above the earth traveling 500 miles an hour…but instead of being in awe, you’re annoyed that the Wi-Fi is So Damn Slow. We’ve all been there. And that’s the point. The best customer experiences have set the bar high for [all] customer experiences.”
In the article, Selligent Marketing Cloud CMO Nick Worth drilled down to the drivers behind entitlement, noting: “Today, consumers expect brands to know every single thing about them: their preferences, where they are the moment they receive a message, what channel they’d like to receive messaging on, and all of that. So, we used the word entitled because it means ‘expecting special privileges.’ And we think all consumers, including ourselves, expect special privileges from brands.”
Worth then addresses how this came about: “It all starts with technology…It used to be that you compared the buying experience in one industry only with experiences in other industries. For example, you’d compare buying a car with the other times you bought a car. These days, because you receive almost every service through a digital interface, which is similar in all industries, you begin to compare everything to everything — every consumer experience compared to every other consumer experience — regardless of industry. As a consumer, you begin to expect that every brand will deliver on the highest quality experience that you’re receiving from any other brand.”
So, technology has enabled communication on steroids. Marketing has added entitled messaging to the formula. Tied in with such marketing as the T-Mobile “I want it all…and I want it now” campaign, it’s little wonder customer entitlement is off the charts.
What will cause it to turn around? Ultimately, it probably will be a combination of lowered expectations brought about by hardship and scarcity, and higher emotional intelligence. Oxford Languages defines emotional intelligence as, “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.”
While there is discernible progress in some sectors when it comes to emotional intelligence, don’t expect any revolutionary changes soon in customer entitlement involving customer service. Hardship and scarcity, currently being experienced because of the pandemic, are likely the near-term paths to lessening the entitlement mentality.
After experiencing deprivation, the natural human tendency is to lower one’s expectations and to appreciate what one does have. That has certainly occurred across the board because of COVID. After experiencing health, economic or emotional horrors, people are finding much greater joy in simple, non-entitled pleasures they once took for granted.
And, along the way, some have found the ability to interact with higher emotional intelligence. That includes the customer service front, where empathy for overworked and overstressed reps has ramped up in some quarters.
Perhaps all of this will help us become a kinder, gentler and less entitled nation.
Where does customer service cross over into undeserved customer entitlement? A recent T-Mobile ad campaign got me thinking about this important distinction, with the “I want it all…and I want it now” theme. While competent, dedicated and sincere customer service needs to continue growing in this country, the opposite is true of our entitlement mentality, showcased by this ad. As everyone continues to suffer through the pandemic, political dysfunction and economic loss, it’s time to reassess what we’re truly entitled to (e.g., appropriate healthcare, a good education for our children) versus continuing to live by our spoiled-brat ways. Along the way, consumers also need to reframe how they interact with customer service forces—who are suffering the same setbacks as the rest of us.Mark Lusky
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Mark Lusky (aka The Happy Curmudgeon)
is the owner of a Denver-based marketing communications firm. He’s a veteran writer, storyteller and author, with 40+ years of public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism experience, and author of A Wandering Wondering Jew… and co-author of Don’t Get Mad, Get Leverage.