Strategy

The CEO Poll: Bigger is not always better

Canadian business leaders lament poor customer service.

Business leaders give the federal mini-budget high marks.

If you’re increasingly frustrated by the quality of customer service these days, you’re not alone. Two-thirds of the 110 Canadian business leaders surveyed by COMPAS Inc. say the service quality at large companies is deteriorating.

“It is a race to the bottom and the customer has no option,” wrote one CEO.

Slightly more than 40% of the respondents said customer service quality is declining “somewhat,” while 28% said it is declining “a lot.” Only 16% of the panel felt service quality is improving.

The respondents identified a number of factors contributing to poor service quality. The biggest problem, according to the respondents, is that bad customer service seems to have little or no effect on the overall success of large corporations. The panel also felt that shifting call centre work overseas and the unavailability of contact information for senior executives was contributing to the problem.

“If large business would look at the service model of small, struggling companies and pattern themselves on that, they would have much happier customers,” wrote one respondent.

“Most large companies like to project a market image that they are service oriented, but in fact realize that servicing a customer is always a short-term expense line that is hard to link to a revenue line,” wrote another.

Some industries are better at customer service than others, according to the CEOs. Insurance companies and banks earned scores of 63 and 59 out of 100 respectively. Telephone and cable companies received a score of 50, while airlines faired the worst with a grade of 48. An overwhelming majority of the panel felt service in these industries is continuing to decline.

A few respondents linked the decline in customer service to labour shortages. “Being in Alberta and experiencing a shortage of employees, we have seen a dramatic decline in most service sectors, especially food, fuel and hospitality,” according to one CEO. “Many staff have an ‘I couldn’t care less’ attitude as they can leave their job today and find another one by the morning.”