Is Customer Service Really Important?

By Simone Brooks

This past summer I studied abroad in London, England. In such a beautiful city with friendly people, the customer service in many of the establishments is completely awful. From retail to restaurants, it was all the same, and this seemed to be a common trend in other European countries.  Now I initially thought that I was just experiencing bad luck but from the variety of stories I continued to hear from other students along with teachers in the program, I really had to think “Why is bad customer service here so normalized?” In order to answer this question I had to think back on my experiences as a customer and a retail employee in the United States and compare it to the experiences in Europe.

From my experience in the United States, customers are treated as the number-one priority in most places. You are thought to handle all situations, no matter how crazy they may be, in a calm and respectful manner in order to assure that the customer is satisfied.

If the customer is treated in any other manner, the employee is often to blame and has to face the repercussions. After hearing one of my teachers from London speak about her problems with customer service she explained to everyone that in both retail and food service, new employees are not given an ample amount of time and not given the appropriate guidance as to how to properly serve a customer in most establishments in Europe. She followed up this explanation with a variety of examples for her own life, some of which were definitely entertaining as a story but unfortunate for the customer.

One story she told: When she ordered a food platter from the local British supermarket, Sainsbury, for an event that she was hosting, the store was suppose deliver the food at a particular time to her desired location. The food was never delivered. When called about the mishap, the store ignored her. So she tweeted about the problem. Multiple people agreed that they had received similar problems and one tweet got retweeted so many times that the company’s headquarters had to call her and tell her to stop because it was making the brand look bad. She fortunately ended up getting the food platter she ordered and an apology from the supermarket.

While my experiences may not have been as extreme, I did have experiences with sales associates leaving to help retrieve something for me and never returning, and waiting in restaurants at tables for hours to be served or even just to be given a check. While I’m sure that the difference in customer service is just a cultural difference, it was one of the most funny and interesting things that I will remember about my trip to Europe.

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9 comments

  1. Customer Service is important because so many people still go to stores to shop, eat, etc. There’s always that one service member that’ s not being the most caring about their customers, but you just have to go through the motions. Sometimes all it takes is a smile and a polite gesture.

  2. Customer service is very important nowadays. Actually some best retail stores are not just sailing their wonderful product but also there service. Cause they have good service to customers, customers would like to choose them instead of other stores. Customers want to be treated politely and nicely so that they can enjoy shopping.

  3. Customer service is very important nowadays. Actually some best sailing retail stores are not just sailing their wonderful products but also sailing their services. Cause they have good service for customers, customers would like to choose them instead of other stores. Customers want to be treated politely and nicely so that they can enjoy shopping.

  4. I completely relate- when I’ve been to Europe as well, I’ve noticed the lack of ‘the customer is always right’ and ‘the customer is the first priority’ mentality. It’s definitely culture shock and does not encourage American tourists to return. However, places with uniquely good or even acceptable customer service stand out so much in contrast and attract many more Americans, which is just an interesting look at our need to be in that comfort zone. Excessively polite and respectful customer service has clearly become very important to us but is maybe not as needed in areas where it is not commonplace.

  5. This blog was very interesting. It was surprising to find out that in many European countries, bad customer service is acceptable. I am happy that companies in the U.S. value excellent customer service. It is very important and something that can make or break your business. If consumers know that employees treat customers bad at a particular company, they are not going to support the store. They will also discourage others from going there and might even post things on social media about the company.

  6. This was such an interesting post to read. From the perspective of a retail employee/ sales associate, when I travelled to Europe over the summer, I was shocked at the customer service. I particularly noticed it in restaurants and not as much in stores. I think customer service is extremely important because without a pleased customer, the business will not succeed. I guess since that is norm in Europe, customers do not even notice because that is the usual behavior. It makes me wonder what Europeans must think of American customer service!

  7. This post was very interesting. I think customer service is the most important part to a successful company. People will not shop or continue to shop at a store with bad customer service because the company’s focus is on the consumer.

  8. This post was very interesting because had a tweet blown up in the United States, the company would do everything in it’s power to make sure the customer’s needs are satisfied and all issues are resolved. I had similar experiences in Europe, many employees in restaurants and department stores do not care about the customer, and will not hesitate to be rude with the customer and completely ignore them. Experiences such as this make me realize how important customer service is, and it helped me become a better employee and not take good customer service for granted.

  9. I also agree that customer service should come first. I have experience working with customers in retail. We were constantly reminded that the customer is always right, even when they aren’t, and that its not worth the argument. Also overseas, customer service positions are mostly paid a wage. Therefore they don’t have to focus on pleasing the customer as much as americans do, because thy don’t rely on a tips. Also Americans are normally fast paced, and we don’t like to wait for things we want. This might also be a contributing factor, we are just so used to fast service. Which may be the opposite of how people function in other countries.

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