Modern life is rubbish, says RUTH SUNDERLAND: Bad service is depressing – it’s so widespread it depresses the national mood
- Businesses lived by the credo that the customer is always right
- Most businesses don’t seem to care about their customers
- The simplest piece of home administration can descend into Hades customer service
Businesses lived by the credo that the customer is always right. The UK is a service economy.
But despite the nauseous bleating about their friendliness and social responsibility, most companies don’t seem to care about their customers.
I don’t even expect proper service anymore, but brace myself from the start for ineptitude, indifference, chasm, gaslighting and endless call waiting.
It’s fashionable for companies to claim to care about mental health, so why are they inflicting psychological torture on customers?
Something to shout about: It’s fashionable for companies to claim to care about mental health, so why are they inflicting psychological torture on customers?
Even the simplest piece of home administration risks becoming a road downhill to Hades customer service.
Like many of us, I tried to shop around for cheaper home insurance when I was presented with a steep premium increase. In our case, an increase of 16.5%, despite more than a decade of no claims.
Perhaps we should consider ourselves lucky, compared to the exorbitant increases of 70% or more identified by Jeff Prestridge in The Mail on Sunday. Trying to find a better deal involved life-consuming conversations on cracking lines to distant call centers – including one where the manager cut me off after 22 minutes and 56 seconds because his shift was over.
But the top staff, who often seem to be superficially trained and operate from a script, aren’t to blame. The culprits are companies that outsource “services” to cheap overseas locations and deploy half-baked artificial intelligence.
This deadly combination is a recipe for rage, as I found out when I tried to find out from my electricity supplier why the permanent charge had doubled in two years.
I was first provided with scripted answers explaining why the price of energy had gone up. When I pointed out that this didn’t explain the ongoing fee hike, I was told it was because I went from a flat rate to a variable rate, but that didn’t make sense. neither.
A simple question led to a three-day WhatsApp odyssey, involving five humans and a few bots, but no satisfying answers.
I have several theories as to why the service has gone downhill. Even though businesses want to provide good service, current labor shortages make it difficult. It also feels like customers have been relegated in the pecking order, behind employees.
A culture of complacency towards the workforce by weak managements set in after Covid. But the tendency for organizations to eschew human contact in favor of automated “solutions” — usually nothing like that — predates the pandemic.
Banks want us to use apps so they can close branches. Supermarkets direct us to automatic checkouts. Passengers must check their baggage and print their boarding passes.
Even HMRC joined us. To avoid talking to taxpayers, they want to text. Don’t they realize that no sane person calls their tax office for fun? We only call when we have to, usually when a text response just isn’t enough.
Service is abandoned in an unacceptable transfer of effort from companies to their customers. They want to turn us into bank clerks, salespeople, airline check-in staff and unpaid meter readers.
These are long gone and consumers have been intimidated into installing so-called “smart” meters. Ours collapsed in early January and we were initially told it might not be fixed for six months. It works again now, but for how long?
Bad service is depressing. It is so widespread that it lowers the national mood. It steals thousands of hours of our time that could be put to much better use. No wonder life feels like such hard work.