3 Ways Customer Service is Worse Today


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Service, in all its forms, has changed drastically from the ways our parents, and I, have been brought up with. Too many industries have gotten away from tending to the needs/wants/desires of their customers in ways that used to be the “norm”.

Customer Service is Worse

With today’s change from the small “mom & pop” stores where you knew the owners, since they probably were a neighbor of yours, to the large warehouse-style conglomerates we visit today, the entire shopping experience sure has changed.

Besides being more impersonal, these new versions of the local shops have reduced the services provided.  Now the customer is expected to do things and become part of the sales process, even more than just asking for, paying, and receiving any product or service.

Here are some examples:

The Supermarket
Years ago there used to be a young, fresh-faced & energetic employee that would bag your groceries and even walk you to your car.  They would then gladly place the bags in your trunk and do so without any expectation of a tip.

  • Now you must decide to use paper or plastic, or bring your own cloth bags and rush to bag your own groceries as the cashier scans them at the speed of light and send them down the conveyor. You try to keep up but usually never can, you just watch the heavy soda bottles slam down on top of the cupcakes for your kids.
  • Walk you to your car?  Never!  You wander through the crowed parking lot with your heavy bags as drivers speed past you looking for ways to sneak into the handicap parking spot without being noticed.
  • Also, the local supermarket was a privately-owned store that knew how to provide service.  They would gladly deliver your groceries.  We used to call, give them our shopping list and before the end of the day your items were at your front doorstep.  Were they left at the doorstep?  Of course not.  The lad would bring them inside and place them on the kitchen counter.  Now, that’s service!

The Gas Station
Gone are the days where you had a uniformed attendant greet you at your car with a smile, and as your tank was being filled, would already have your hood up and would check your oil then wash the windows, all for free.  Come on, I know you remember those days…

If you never experienced this level of service, just watch a late night episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” to see how gas station attendant extraordinaire Gomer Pyle would take care of you and find out what service used to be like at a gas station.

Now there is one lone attendant, dressed in whatever getup he slipped into that morning, trying to take care of these monstrous filling stations that are always understaffed.  He reaches your car and barely says anything to you other than “cash or credit”.

  • Want your oil checked…yeah right. Better go to your car dealer.
  • Want your windows washed…at least they have a squeegee in a dirty bucket of blue water tucked in between the gas pumps. Hey, it even has a handle that’s not cracked!
  • Want air in your tires…the air pump costs 25 cents for 30 seconds of air, take it or leave it.

The Car Wash
I remember when all the car washes made you exit your car so it could be properly cleaned.  The attendant would ask you which flavor of air freshener you liked; vanilla, strawberry, baby powder, lemon, etc., and ask you which level of service you wanted and would explain the differences.

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You would then enter the building and were greeted with seasonal music as you walked along the long window-lined corridor.  Step after step you watched the machines work their magic.  This was a special treat for me when I was a little kid.  I used to love watching the “robots” clean my mom’s car.

When you got to the end you were greeted by the cashier where you paid for the wash and have an option to purchase a thousand and one different hanging air fresheners and assorted car-related items.

As you walked to your car there were 2 men squirting window cleaner on the inside windows while the smallest of the bunch hopped inside and wiped them all clean.

You enter your now great-smelling car and notice that all the carpets are vacuumed clean, and even the ashtray is clean (I’m dating myself now).  By the way, where was that guy with the vacuum?  The floor is spotless now; all my kid’s Cheerios are picked-up.

  • Now you no longer get to “tour” the car wash office and must stay inside the car. That’s not really bad since the kids seem to like the “big overhead octopus that washes the car” as I used to tell them.
  • When you get to the end the first thing you see is a large drum or bucket with a hand painted sign asking for tips. (Note: I’ve never seen so many businesses asking for tips nowadays, especially those (“fancy coffee shops“).
  • Then, if you want your carpets cleaned, you must pull over and drop quarter after quarter into the vacuum machine, the one that never seems to do as good of a job as when the attendants used to do it.  Plus, do you really want to hop in the rear seat to get the prized gems of junk hidden underneath? I’m getting too old for that!
  • As you pull away, you see the waterfall of soapy water dripping from the space between the side mirror and its housing.  Your hard-earned $10 or so just went towards a long soapy streak along your doors that will be dried like a rock.  So much for that nice clean car you had hoped for.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steve DiGioia
Steve uses his 20+ years of experience in the hospitality industry to help companies and their employees improve service, increase morale and provide the experience their customers' desire. Author of "Earn More Tips On Your Very Next Shift...Even If You're a Bad Waiter" and named an "ICMI Top 50 Customer Service Thought Leader" and a "Top Customer Service Influencer" by CCW Digital, Steve continues his original customer service, leadership and management-based writings on his popular blog.


  1. A curious article. As an account of your customer experiences over time, it certainly shows a trend, largely about societal change.
    But I’m not convinced by your conclusion that it necessarily represents “worse” customer service.
    E.g. Yes, car wash technology has changed. The machines are actually a lot more efficient than they were before, using less detergent and water than before. But it is the proposition that has really shifted. Here in the UK, alongside the automated car washes, you’ll find independent teams of car washers, who swarm around your car, cleaning it inside and out in around 7 mins at a small premium. Personally, Imorefer the latter because the quality of clean is better and I’m supporting local entrepreneurs to make a living. But the key fact is that there is a choice of proposition.

    Bring your own bags to the supermarket? Yep – and quite right. From an environmental viewpoint, plastic bags are a disaster, and paper bags unnecessary. Society is changing (slowly) towards customer experiences which have wider responsibility, whether to the environment, or a more shark economy, or the changing shape of demographics.

    Customer service should start with what the customer promise is all about, what the brand values are, what the company vision and mission is all about. For some firms, self service elements are being introduced, and it sounds like you’re not a fan of this. Fair enough – doubtless there will still be full service propositions out there, as a niche offer, and likely at a premium.
    But I don’t believe, de facto, that makes them better. Simply different.

  2. Hi Rick,

    You correctly state that society’s changing attitudes do have an impact on service, or at least how we provide that service to today’s customers. But we must still find a way to deal with our now fast-paced world by still providing the comfort of what has come before.

    I believe the service leaders, Zappo’s, Southwest Airlines, et al, still provide the highest level of technology AND a customer experience second to none. That is my hope that it continues…without succumbing to the whims of those wishing to take shortcuts first.

    Thanks Rick,


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