The worm turns

When I received the results of a new customer service survey a few weeks back, I barely blinked.

According to Empathica Consumer Insights, a Canadian-based customer experience management firm, 55 percent of Americans believe customer service is getting worse. Further, 13 percent of respondents say they’re unsure whether it’s better or worse than in the past and 32 percent of Americans say customer service has held fast at a constant level.

What that level is the survey didn’t mention, but these results aren’t too surprising considering how shoddy customer service seems to be these days. Here’s a case in point: I was waiting to pick up a pizza at a well-known pizza chain a couple of weekends ago. As I stood there, three employees gabbed about their personal lives without regard to the customers. In explaining his latest conquest with a fellow employee — who obviously wasn’t there that evening — the employee went into graphic detail, dropping a litany of profane expletives that were too much for basic cable TV.

The entire incident made me question frequenting the establishment with my children in tow — or even at all. As a regular customer, buying pizzas once weekly for my family at $20 or so a visit, this one encounter quickly added up to more than $1,000 per year lost because of subpar, inappropriate customer service.

If you’re like most business executives, you’re scrutinizing every dollar that your company spends. Value is critical, and how you’re treated as a client by vendors and partners can make the difference between doing business with someone and seeking greener pastures.

This is why Smart Business is proud to recognize 31 organizations that have demonstrated their commitment to delivering world-class customer service.

They understand how to go above and beyond for customers, clients and vendors, essentially rendering price irrelevant. They have systems in place that ensure consistency with every encounter. They know how to make their employees — and customers — feel valued, not awkward.

And they have cracked the code on how to develop company cultures where delivering top-notch service isn’t just an idea — it’s a promise woven directly into the corporate fabric.

In good times and bad, your customer service experience is every bit as important as price points and merchandise quality. Those who deliver service well will reap the benefits of economic growth.

But those who ply it poorly will eventually suffer the consequences and a sadder fate.