Here’s a series of questions I puzzle over about service companies in the 21st century.
Why is it that in a service economy, telecom firms, insurance companies, airlines, cable providers, and utilities are among the most hated by consumers? Why is service so bad?
Why is it that you dread having to call your phone company to tell them they made an error on your bill? Why do insurance companies have such different faces – one, all smiles, when they’re selling you your policy, and one all fangs when you make your claim? Why do cable companies try to tie you up in knots when you try to get service?
Your visible service providers: your hairdresser, your dry cleaner, even your bank teller and your real estate agent provide face-to-face service, it tends to be pleasant and efficient. Why can’t your invisible service providers emulate them?
Could it have something to do with the lack of competition in the large-scale service industries? Or is it that we haven’t yet figured out how to scale service so that it remains pleasant while striving for efficiency? And if efficiency is what service companies are aiming for, why do they waste so much of their customers' and their own time going around in circles when you call, handing your call over to a relay team of six or eight service representatives, each requiring the same story over again?
Why do the large bureaucracies of service companies in the 21st century resemble Kafka’s bureaucracy in the trial of K in the early 20th?
Why do service companies spend so much money trying to convince consumers of their green credentials, their corporate social responsibility, and their good citizenship and then fail in the most basic direct customer interactions? Why can't they get the basics right?
How come service is not a competitive advantage in a service economy? Why do service companies have such a hard time getting service right?