Customer Service – The Lost Art | Consumer Goods and Services

Customer service. By all rights the general public should clearly understand its definition. However, I am constantly reminded every time I wonder into the world of consumer goods and services that it seems to have become a thing of the past.Here is the problem: People own businesses, they hire employees to help run their business, however they neglect to make sure that these people they hire will in fact represent them in the best possible way to their customers. Teaching employees to run the register, wait tables, schedule appointments, execute sales, whatever the job duties are, is not enough! In today’s economy and our never-ending push for higher educated employees has overshadowed the need for old fashioned customer service. What some employers assume as common sense or minimal courtesy their employees lack. Make sure your employees don’t.If you run a business, no matter what your product or service is, you should be looking for customers, not just sales. Here is a personal example of what a lack of customer service can do.

I went to a local mall and stopped at the “pretzel” place for a pretzel and smoothie. I understand the one and only employee was making pretzel sandwiches for the one and only other customer in the place, but I stood at the counter for 7 minutes while she made their sandwiches and smoothies (including rinsing out the blender) before she even acknowledge I was standing there. Now honestly, how difficult was it to turn her head around and say “I’ll be right with you”? I ordered my pretzel because, heck, I’d been standing there that long anyway, but will I go back? Probably not, cause now in my mind “their customer service stinks!” See, one time, one thing can make a huge difference. Now how many people will I refer there? None. I wont go out of my way to inhibit patrons of the little shop, but I certainly wont offer it up as a suggestion for anyone.Somehow today minimum wage translates into “I don’t get paid enough to go that extra mile for the customer.” Its just a job right? Not if you are the owner! We have all heard our parents or grandparents tell the dreaded stories of how they walked 2 miles uphill (both ways) to buy a nickel loaf of bread when they were younger. At the risk of sounding like my grandparents, I remember driving 20 miles for $3.35 an hour to work at a service desk, taking returns and complaints all day and I loved it. Now society has such a sense of entitlement that they think they deserve $7-8 per hour to text on their cell phone and talk over your head to the cashier behind you about what they are doing Friday night!

Having said all this, my next question to you is “how do we make it better?” We demand that it be better. We tell our local business owners when we stand in line without being acknowledged, we ask for supervisors, we phone or email. I, as a business owner would WANT to know if my employees have deterred customers for being repeat customers. You can follow up with customers, offer customer service surveys, and have customer service trainings for your employees. Many business consultants offer on site customer service training for a lot less that it would cost you if you lost a customer. It may be YOUR business, but your employees can have every bit as much influence on your customers as you do, sometimes more.In the era of fast paced, high tech, ever evolving businesses, one thing should stay consistent and that is old fashioned upstanding customer service.

Consumer Retrenchment in the US | Consumer Goods and Services

The United States has been the locomotive of the world’s economy. Specifically, in recent decades, the spending by the U.S. has been the driving force behind most of the economic growth in the United States and worldwide. In this regard, the U.S. spending has accounted for as much as 70 per cent of the nation’s $14.1 trillion economy and has been the single largest driver of the world demand for imports of goods and services. In fact, the U.S. imports have accounted for over 15 per cent of the total world import demand, much of which has been consumed by the U.S. households. However, despite the early signs of the economic rebound in many developed nations, trends in consumer spending in the United States suggest that the global economic recovery will be lacklustre at best.The U.S. consumer spending in the coming years will remain subdued for several reasons:1) Extended losses in household net worth, as deflationary pressures persist and housing and stock prices continue to decline. To date, the bursting of the housing bubble and equity-market losses have erased an equivalent of an annual GDP of the United States. In the past decades, rising household wealth, driven primarily by the growing home values, had a positive effect on spending, and therefore on demand for imports. The collapse of the housing market and the prospect of continued declines in housing prices suggest that the negative effect of household wealth losses will persist, exerting the pressure on the U.S. consumer and therefore suppressing demand for imports of consumer goods and services.

2) Stagnant or declining household income due to rising unemployment. The U.S. unemployment rate has reached 9.4 per cent, with a prospect of a 10 per cent rate by the end of this year, despite the signs that the U.S. economy is coming out of the recession. Job losses, estimated to peak at over seven million by mid-2010, and declining household incomes will have a significant negative effect on consumer confidence and spending.3) Slower credit growth than in earlier years. The rapid credit expansion in the United States, which boosted consumption, had been driven in recent decades by rising housing values. The collapse of the housing market and the consequent end to cash-out mortgage refinancing that earlier accompanied the periods of growing home values has ended the huge thrust to consumer spending from the rapid credit growth. Moreover, significantly tightened lending standards have suppressed credit expansion, stifling consumer spending.4) Increased savings. The U.S. personal savings rate has already increased to over 5 per cent, the highest in fifteen-years. The upward trend in the savings rate is indicative of the U.S. consumers’ higher propensity to save because of mounting job losses, falling incomes, and increased financial insecurity. Altogether, these factors have contributed to slower rates of growth in consumer spending and have weakened demand for foreign consumer goods and services.

Therefore, the current trends in the U.S. consumer spending suggest that the expectations of a return to strong economic growth in the United States are unrealistic. The same holds true for most world economies, especially for those that are highly depended on demand from the United States. The retrenchment of the American consumer is therefore likely to keep the economic growth worldwide subdued for the next several years.Ireland relies heavily on the U.S. economy, both from the perspective of direct investment, and as a marketplace for our goods and services. The longer spending power remains suppressed across the water, the longer the Irish economy will have to await recovery. Such is the nature of the global economy and Ireland’s deliberate and calculated openness. What we need going forward is a more resilient and coherent strategy such that we can stand on our own two feet and drive our own success more directly.