Skimplation | Same bill but less service

Nobody likes to find out that there are fewer cookies or spaghetti in the box for the same price, which is called reduflation. There’s nothing nicer than being faced with a drop in customer service quality while the bill stays the same, or worse, goes up. A phenomenon called Skimplation.

Posted at 6:30am

The term Skimplation is a portmanteau fusing the verb to skimpwhich could be translated as skimping (or scratching as we say colloquially) and the noun inflation.

Every time we wait longer on the phone, in a shop or in a restaurant to be served, every time our hotel room isn’t cleaned during our stay, we live Skimplation. We get less for our money.

This strategy is used by companies to control costs and maintain profit margins as their own expenses increase.

Currently, neither the Office québécois de la langue française nor TERMIUM Plus, the Canadian government’s terminology and language database, offer French translations. But with the rate of inflation and wages continuing to rise, the examples multiply.

Of course, labor shortages aren’t helping companies excel in service. Whether in hardware stores, fast food restaurants or at the airport, we notice it immediately. He lacks weapons. Ditto in call centers, where he lacks ears. So we hang around, we move unnecessarily, we get nonsensical answers. In any case, it’s quite frustrating.

The quality of customer service has never been worse, agrees Jean-Luc Geha, director of the HEC Montreal Sales Institute and professor. And he doesn’t see the day when things could get better.


PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, LA PRESSE ARCHIVE

Jean Luc Geha

“At the time it was said that the problem lay with the federal and state governments. We could wait hours for the tax response. But the fact is that we live with companies. »

Marc Gordon is also a customer service expert. For 25 years, the Ontarian has held conferences on this topic and has helped 300 companies to improve. I called him to see if he saw the same degradation in customer service quality as Mr Geha and I did. His answer in short: yes.

This is particularly visible in the hotel and catering industry.


PHOTO SUPPLIED BY MARC GORDON

Mark Gordon

They don’t have the time or resources to properly train their recruits. Management is too concerned with costs and maintaining revenue.

Marc Gordon, Ontario consultant specializing in customer service for 25 years

But the shortcomings are widespread.

Including in the supermarket. According to a survey by Skimplation Conducted by Field Agent Canada in February among 1,554 consumers, 61% noted a decrease in staff numbers and 44% felt customer service had deteriorated. Customers are noticing that checkout lines are longer and shelves are less crowded, the magazine reported. Canadian grocer.

Corporate desire to avoid the effects of inflation is also being felt in the United States.

In the first quarter of 2022, customer satisfaction there fell to its lowest level in 17 years, according to the National American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Unpleasant examples of Skimplation already made headlines there in 2021. planet money specifically reported the dissatisfaction aroused by the elimination of transportation service between parking lots and Disney theme parks, a journey of nearly a mile (1.6 km).

Supply, bottlenecks, inflation and staffing problems caused by the pandemic have changed the corporate culture, observes Marc Gordon. “We went from ‘I want to be successful’ to ‘I want to survive’. When COVID-19 struck, companies stopped turning to him for advice. They had other fish to fry.

But now that everything is open again, you know what? “Nobody wants to talk about customer service,” says the expert.

The priorities are elsewhere: stress at work, inclusion of visible minorities, work-family balance, mental health and so on. These are important issues. But interestingly, customer experience has disappeared from the list. “What matters are the employees. »

These employees have also changed, which affects the quality of customer service, adds Jean-Luc Geha. Many want to work fewer hours, remain telecommuting and devote more time to their families. “If everyone works a 4-day 30-hour week, there will certainly be fewer employees and fewer services in all areas. »

I repeat myself, but we’re not done with the wait, frustration and disappointment…

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