Businesses simply can't afford to wait to respond to customer queries anymore. Anytime, anywhere, instant access and richer interactions with some brands have also fostered impatience across the board, as witnessed by the customer care streams on Twitter, jammed with customers thrilled by lightning-speed responses or appalled by slow ones.
In countries where tipping is not the norm, the general understanding is that tipping is a reward for those who go above-and-beyond to offer a top-quality service. However, the Japanese, for example, suggest that the employer is paying good money for their staff to do precisely that - and surely that work ethic cannot be faulted.
Companies placing responsibility in the hands of the public is both bold and precarious. Nowhere is this more evident than in the review sections that gild the product pages of Amazon. Of course, the majority serve as a valuable steer for would-be customers. Many, however, fail to reach even the most basic criteria required.
I was recently at a gathering of entrepreneurs and we talked about our challenges, what we like and what we don't like about what we do. One thing struck me: no-one in the group actually enjoyed being the boss myself included. By that I don't mean that they don't value their independence, we all do, but we all see managing people as a necessary evil, a means to an end not the end itself...
The best businesses are the ones which really stay in tune with their customers' needs. These days there are so many tools to analyse results, and so many ways to interact with the people who buy your products or services, that there really is no excuse for failing to grasp what they are thinking. The needs and behaviour patterns of your customers can constantly change - and your business should adapt accordingly.
The Consumer Ombudsman resolves disputes for consumers across a number of industries in the UK, including Telecoms. People use this service as a last resort when their complaint with a company is not resolved directly. Their annual report acts a weather gauge for customer issues and how well companies are able to answer them.
About a decade ago, many companies in the UK pushed their customer service centres offshore to new call centres located far away - often in India or the Philippines. The aim was to save money because the captains of industry bought into the idea that distance was dead - work in call centres can be performed anywhere by anyone.