The other day my friend asked me, “Is mediocrity the new customer experience?” He mentioned how he’s had to wait longer when he called customer support and that there weren’t enough cashiers at the grocery store.
I said, “You are a victim of skimpflation.”
The word skimpflation was introduced recently on NPR’s Planet Money podcast. I’ve already written several articles about this ugly word, and I thought it was time to introduce it here. Skimpflation is a result of rising business costs and the labor shortage caused by what we’ve been calling The Great Resignation, in which employees have chosen to quit their jobs in search of something better. The result is that companies are forced to “skimp” on the quality and service customers have come to expect. It’s not that they want to do it. They have no choice.
I recently went to breakfast at a hotel. There was a line, yet there were a number of open tables. I asked the manager why we couldn’t be seated. He apologized and said they couldn’t staff the dining area properly. Rather than deliver a poor customer service experience, they felt it was better to shut down part of the restaurant. He assured me I would be seated within 10 minutes if I was willing to wait.
It was the perfect explanation.
Three lessons here:
- Transparency: The answer was honest. Customers love honesty. It builds trust, credibility, and in some cases like this, empathy.
- Information: I was told what to expect. When the manager said it would be 10 minutes, that seemed like a reasonable time to wait. Customers love information. It gives them a feeling that they have some control of the situation. By the way, the manager was true to his word. Actually, we were seated in just eight minutes.
- Customer Service: Providing the expected great customer service was more important than serving more people. The manager made a choice. Open up all the tables and get complaints about the service or close off part of the restaurant to maintain the high standard they were known for. Customer service won. As mentioned, it’s what they are known for. No need to taint their reputation because they wanted to fill every seat in the restaurant.
None of us want to wait. None of us want to experience a lower level of service. Unfortunately, that’s typical of what’s happening for many businesses as a result of skimpflation. It’s not something any company wants, but it’s become a reality for some. So, consider the lessons we learned from the restaurant. Customers will overlook certain issues when there’s transparency, a flow of information, and the effort to create an excellent customer service experience.