Have consumers ruined “customer service”?

Here’s my comment on Retail Wire, part of a provocative discussion about customer service. The premise of the commentary is that customers have “ruined” old-fashioned notions of good customer service by opting for low-cost operators rather than traditional service providers over the years. I think the key argument is flawed, and here’s why:

I’ve noted before that “customer service” can’t be narrowly defined by the old model of the traditional department store. After all, most traditional retailers have allowed their own service standards decline to the point where consumers have ended up voting for more value-centric models such as Walmart and Costco…and this has been going on for at least 25 years. Retail analysts need to define “customer service” differently in a value-oriented big-box store, by focusing on speed of checkout, ease of store navigation and in-stock execution.

Speaking of execution…it’s no accident that Nordstrom (more than any other retailer following the “traditional” customer service model) has continued to gain share and a national footprint by maintaining better service standards than any of its department store competitors.

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