As summer arrives, with the season has come another change. My wife and I moved.
Beyond the death of a parent or spouse or losing a job, there is nothing deemed to be more stressful.
I have to say, I didn't find the act of moving itself to be such a stress inducer. Don't get me wrong - it is a pain - from the loading of boxes and arranging change of addresses for everyone you have any kind of relationship with, to the physical act of erasing your presence in one place and re-establishing yourself in another.
Much to my surprise, the biggest stress for me was dealing with telecommunication providers who can't deliver on what they promise, and then back it up with horrific customer service.
This wasted valuable time and money and created plenty of frustration.
I'm not looking for pity; this trend in poor customer service is not unique to Kelowna.
In our case, a choice was made to switch providers of television services. I called the company (I won't name them, but trying to remember them should ring a bell) and informed them of my decision. They said I needed to return my rented satellite receiver and they would be happy to send a box out.
I told them I was moving and would need the box within the next week. No problem. A week passed and no box. I called again and told them I had two days left to deal with it; they assured me the box would be there in the next two days and even provided a tracking number.
You can guess where this is going - the box never arrived. I moved out, took the receiver and hid it in a good place. Five days later, the box arrived at the old house. I arranged to pick it up. When I got home, I discovered the Styrofoam protective arrangement in the box was for a regular receiver and not the high definition version we had. Another call back to the provider and a bump up to Level 2 (because there is nothing simple about sending out a box), and I was told a new box was on the way. It has yet to arrive as this column goes to print, and total time wasted has reached the hour mark.
Now, the switch I mentioned involved another national company I'd like to tell us, er, tell you about. They did arrive on time to provide service, but we were left with a few issues. There was no phone service - the line didn't work. Another service call remedied that situation, but then the wrong number was assigned to a fax instead of a phone with a smart ring.
Another call to the provider about our email not working - they said, yes, they had changed the password, but there was no point in telling us. The result was no email for two days and a few lost opportunities.
I will give this provider some credit for being better to deal with than Company A.
Every year, American Express monitors customer service through its barometer report. The latest finding released earlier this year showed that companies consistently do not satisfy customer expectations and are becoming steadily worse - 31 per cent in 2012 versus 26 per cent two years earlier. To no one's surprise, two thirds of customers are willing to spend more with companies that provide excellent service.
Social media as well has yet to become a mainstream mechanism for delivering good customer service. When social media is used to make an inquiry, consumers can count on responses just 31 per cent of the time.
Added to all of this is the fact that many firms actually believe they are providing good customer service when the customer thinks otherwise. Recent findings by the Temkin Group, a leading customer experience research firm, show 65 per cent of companies rate themselves better than average.
Temkin asked 10,000 consumers to rate their experiences with 206 national companies across 18 industries. Only 28 per cent of those companies received at least a "good" rating. Grocery chains earned the highest average scores, while health plans had the lowest. Most credit unions outperformed other members of their industry while DHL and RadioShack were farthest behind their peers.
And then there is the latest from the alleged leader in customer experience, Apple.
A poll of 5,000 people conducted by Vocalabs shows the quality of Apple's phone support has declined significantly and is slowly sinking to levels associated with its competitors.
This trend in customer service is being played out daily and represents a major business opportunity for local providers of goods and services. You may not win on price, but you could outperform the competition by excelling on customer service.
Robert Fine is executive director of the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission.