Too many. If you have ever needed a plumber you know what I mean. This past week, I needed one. And many calls and voice mails later, one of them finally returned my plea for help. But, of course, after he came to fix my problem, I had to reschedule. Why?
Because I needed a shower valve, about a $200 part, and my plumber just happened to have one on his truck, and all it would cost me is a little over $1100. So I politely declined, ran all over town to find one, and remain without a shower in our bedroom until the plumber can return. So what’s wrong with this picture?
1. Plumbers in my area are in such short supply, they can’t keep up with the demand.
2. Therefore, most don’t bother to call you back, leaving you hanging.
3. Then when you do find one, they often are booked out several weeks in advance. So you wait.
4. And when they do make it to your problem, their parts are over-priced and you can either pay the ransom or you can do what we did–reschedule until you can buy the part at a reasonable price.
If only these situations occurred with plumbers, we could live with it. But we find the same lack of service and fair pricing exists in every industry and practiced by many companies, leading us to ask: Who is the customer here? Who does this business serve? Me or the bottom line?
I understand supply and demand. But that is only part of the reason for a lack of response, service and pricing that greets customers faced with repair or replacement needs. Some of those in a position of scarcity are taking advantage and charging excessive mark-ups and combining it with horrible service. I believe that attitude reflects on business universally, even if we are not engaged in the practice.
Am I wrong? Do consumers paint with a broad brush and when faced with bad service and high prices attribute that attitude to all business? Do they think of us as greedy before ever doing business with us or do they judge us as individual businesses not as a class of businesses?
Are brands affected by group think or can individual brands within an industry rise above others by resisting the temptation to reduce customer service to cut costs and increase their margins to raise profits?
Should a business always compete on that basis, or should some step us, increase customer service to meet demand and lower their margins? Doing so means that at the end of the day our top and bottom lines will show at the very least a short-term decline?
But what would the long-term hold for such a company? Can we guarantee that customers will flock to us in the numbers necessary to make-up for increased customer service and lower prices without any decline in quality?