Family Company Rolls Back Customer Service 50 Years

admin 26 Oct, 2017

The turn of the 50’s to 60’s were a time for change in America. Change present in our fears of the Cuban Missile Crisis and air raid drills in schools, and the changes in the hopes and dreams of a united and color-blind America with the birth of the civil rights movement. The Beatles were changing music and Elvis was back from the Army. Detroit was poised for decline by decentralizing the automotive industry and the Las Vegas that we know was growing out of the desert like a cactus rose. The Brooklyn Dodgers broke baseball’s color barrier and then left Brooklyn, but the bikini was here to stay. Neil Armstrong landed on the moon while “hippies” landed in Woodstock, New York. Malt shops, milkmen, and drive-in movies were approaching the precipice of near extinction, while color televisions, video games, and Velcro were ready to take the world by storm. Customer service was also a very different experience back in those pivotal times.

With the nostalgia of Kevin Arnold’s “The Wonder Years” and the financial responsibility of paying twenty-five cents for a gallon of milk a relic of the past, we wonder what really made the difference in customer service in the mid-twentieth century. The customer service of the 50’s and 60’s was a more personalized and pleasant experience, with customer service availability at its core. The experience was often found satisfying to the customer and was done so with the intent of build long-lasting relationships for the duration of a customer’s lifetime. Services were delivered with a Hallmark-like sense of gratitude and appreciation. The service provider understood how to listen to the needs of their customer and were ultimately generous with their time. So what has changed and why?

The principle at the heart of the service industry’s move away from even adequate customer service is what I affectionately refer to as “the death of the eggroll”. Eggrolls have gotten much smaller over the last twenty years, as it is with most other shares of goods and services. As a consumer, we are ultimately given less at a higher price tag. As the price of food rises in grocery stores throughout America, the portions being paid for dwindles down lower and lower. Quality of goods and services are pushed passed the comfort thresholds of consumers, who are looking for high-return on efficient and proactive quality service. Outsourcing customer service to various countries, where consumer empathy is lost in the indifference of today, creates a breakdown in communication and ultimately frustrates a customer whose time is not being valued. Lost in endless automated calling systems and then rerouted out of state or out of country proves that greed has surpassed addressing needs. This monopolistic type behavior shows the lack of concern for customers, daring them to leave the comforts of their established yet injured service relationship for more fertile grounds. It is a game of pure numbers and profit verses customer service, with losses in clientele base found to be an acceptable loss when measured against the money saved by making moves that deteriorate services.

About seven years ago, I attended a conference with an executive from Disney as the guest speaker. The main topic was a good service provider versus a great service provider. Considering the absolute domination by Disney over the hearts and minds of the most impressionable stages of development for our youth, I figured that the “Disney model” was one worth following. The speaker went on to detail the magic of the Disney experience when visiting Disney World. The way all people attending the theme park were greeted with smiles and catered to on a level that was unmatched. “All people entering the park are treated to an experience where they are the prince or princess in the classical stories”, he remarked. “Never do we forget that it is the customer who has propelled us to success to begin with. They may number in the millions or maybe ever billions, but each one is made to feel individually special. No one is made to feel less important. Do you know why? Because they absolutely are to us, not only as an organization, but individually to each person that represents the Disney brand”. When speaking further on the differences between a good company and a great company, it was agreed upon that almost all companies in business are at least good companies or they would not be conducting business to begin with. However, a great company is the one that takes the extra step to make the customer feel important because the customer truly is a valued partner. Further, when there is an issue with a service being provided, the response is swift, well-aimed, courteous, gracious, empathic and exceeds customer expectations in reaction and response. These are principles that should be ingrained into a company’s branding and slogan, executed with pinpoint precision.

In my previous position, working with one of the top pest control service providers in the world, I was taught by a vice president that the American version of the company was “just a brand” for a bigger entity. From my current position as a pest control service owner, I wondered what my competition was doing regarding their own branding and slogans. What focus was placed on the customer and the services being provided? Sourcing back to Pest Control Technology (PCT) Magazine, I reviewed the top one-hundred pest control companies in America. Only one name spoke to an assurance in the services being provided out of the top one-hundred pest control companies in the nation. Almost all of the service provider’s names that were reviewed were broken down into three main categories:

1) Company names that used letters at the beginning of the alphabet in an attempt to show up first in the dinosaur that is the yellow pages. (Ex: AAA Exterminator)

2) Company names that would show up more readily as the result of a search engine query. (Ex: New York Pest Control)

3) Company names that were derived from the name of their founder. (Ex: Jones & Sons Pest Control)

From the standpoint of a consumer this left me feeling hollow. Was there any company out there aimed towards the services that they provided and stood for rather than names drenched in marketing edge or narcissism? Further, company slogans spoke to the self-proclaimed expertise of the service provider and not to the services being provided. (Ex: “Local Bed Bug Experts”) Was I reviewing great companies, with their customers at the center of concern in their business, or was I reviewing good companies that were great at marketing and maximizing profits? Adequate service and great marketing now ruled the day. As I laid my company side-by-side with the great marketing companies posing as great service providers, the differences were crystal clear.

Secure Pest Services- “We Secure What You Value Most”. The name and slogan said it all, with customer service surpassed by none and the service results that accompany it. “We always say that there is a Boy Scouts feel to what we do”, stated founding member, Louis Scafidi. Technicians, and all other members of the Secure family, are expected to not only provide that 1950’s style of service, but have also been known to bring garbage pails up the garage during a residential pest control service on garbage day. “We are family-own and it is important to us that our customers feel like they are part of that family”, said the Director of Operations. Building a service business that develops customized programs and is top in techniques, but retains old values, has remains the cornerstone of the Secure Pest Services business model and the growing company’s continued success. This has not gone unnoticed by an appreciative customer base. “Things are very different today from when I was a young woman. It is heartening to know that there are still people like both of you who are not only helpful, but trustworthy and kind. It reminds me of the time when people cared about their business and customers”, wrote a customer in a letter addressed to her regularly servicing technicians. While customers may not be dressed in poodle skirts and leather jackets over white tee-shirts with the DeLorean from “Back To The Future” in their driveway, it has not stopped customers from appreciating this customer service blast from the past. “Great Scott!”