Perceived Downturn in Customer Service

A recent survey of 6,800 Americans reveals a troubling trend. A majority of respondents believe that the customer service they receive while dining out is becoming progressively worse.

Consumer Confidence Shaky
Bloomberg Businessweek reported that consumer confidence is somewhat fragile as few expect their incomes to increase within the next year and many consumers are concerned about future employment. As a result, consumer spending has been restrained. In fact, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, sales at stores like Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC opened within the last year by YUM have remained unchanged.

Increased Expectations Lead to Disappointment
A survey conducted by Empahtica, Incorporated revealed that 55.2% of consumers within the US believe that customer service within the restaurant industry is on the decline.

According to Empahtic’s Executive Vice President of Client Services, Gary Edwards speculates that this may be due to increased expectations on the part of consumers who are cash strapped and therefore dining out less frequently. quotes Edwards as saying, “With less discretionary spending, people aren’t going out as frequently, and when they do, they have heightened expectations. Even if service levels aren’t truly declining, restaurants maybe evaluated more harshly. There is simply more of a negative sentiment among consumers.”

Service More Important than Food
Meeting those heightened service expectations is a must for restaurateurs as a full 20% of consumers who responded to the Empahica survey stated that good customer service is more important to them than good food. According to the Empathica survey, when consumers visit a favorite restaurant and receive poor service 25% said they do not return to that establishment again. Even worse, they tell others not to dine there as well.

Edwards cautions against simply throwing labor dollars at the issue and instead advises solid training coupled with reinforcing quality service expectations. Edwards explains that working with staff to emphasize those service opportunities which make a difference in the consumers overall experience is essential.

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