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What Can Be Done About the Decline of Customer Service?

Frustration, anger and even desperation are showing up across diverse industries as the meaning of “more for less” is changing in America.

passengers waiting for flights at airport
From airlines cancelling flights at the last minute to hotels not cleaning rooms during multi-night stays to professionals in many industries not showing up for service appointments to core products simply not being available in stores, the rapid decline in customer service is evident almost everywhere in American society in 2022.

As a result of staffing shortages, rising inflation and pandemic-related issues, customer dissatisfaction and frustration is at record levels. Expectations are now changing as fast food is no longer fast and help desks are no longer as helpful — if you can actually get someone to talk with.

Here are some related headlines to consider:

CNN — “US airline passengers aren’t happy. Here’s why”: “The airports are crowded, the flights are packed and air travel in the US and beyond is back in full swing.

“But the return to the skies in the wake of the pandemic hasn’t been entirely smooth: passengers seem more badly behaved than ever, flight cancellations feel increasingly commonplace and airlines are hiking fares as fuel prices soar.”

Business Insider — “Global hotel room prices are skyrocketing, but the 5-star vacation crowd remains unfazed despite lackluster service due to worker shortages”: “Global hotel prices have increased by 184% from a year ago, per Travel Daily Media. This is due to a sudden surge in travel demand, worker shortages, and a dearth of guestrooms.

“The reasons for reduced room capacity vary: While a few hotels used the downtime in travel to renovate, the majority cannot fully reopen due to a shortage of labor caused by hotels letting staff go to stay afloat during the height of the pandemic, Lim added.

“In March, the US Bureau of Labour Statistics reported that the leisure and hospitality industry faced a quit rate of 5.7%. The high rate of resignation is primarily due to burnout among service staff, many of whom had to double-up shifts to cover colleagues who were let go, per The Economist.”

Condé Nast Traveler — “Travelers’ Satisfaction With U.S. Airlines Is at Its Lowest Point Since the Pandemic Began”: “Summer travel has officially kicked off, and one thing’s for certain: travelers aren’t happy with U.S. airlines. Not only has there been a recent spike in flight cancellations, but customers are also displeased with the service on board aircraft, too.

“In fact, passengers’ satisfaction with North American airlines in 2022 dropped a whopping 20 points compared to last year, according to a recent J.D. Power survey. Passengers in all cabins have been unhappy with U.S. airlines over the last year, with the survey showing satisfaction numbers dropping in basic economy, regular economy, premium economy, and even first and business class. This year’s average satisfaction score was 798 on a scale of 1,000, according to J.D. Power.

“A variety of issues seems to be driving air travelers’ ire. Passengers’ satisfaction 'declined sharply' in all areas of the survey, which measured how customers felt about the aircraft, baggage handling, boarding process, check-in, flight crew, and in-flight services.”
And no, these issues are not entirely a totally new trend. Going back to June 2020, we see this:

Customer service is worse than ever and so is consumers’ rage”: “Customer service is worse than ever and more people are enraged about it, according to a new Arizona State University survey.”

However, I do believe that the trend is accelerating currently in June 2022, which is why I am writing this blog now.


Almost everywhere you turn in 2022, the decline of customer service is evident. These trends are not just in travel and restaurant areas, but cut across all industries.

Throughout my career, I have heard numerous public- and private-sector organizations use the term “more for less” in various contexts; however, the meaning was generally “more value (or quantity or quality) for less money (or cost).”

In the past few months, I have heard friends, colleagues and family use the term “more for less” to mean more money for less product, essentially switching the meaning 180 degrees. For example, I just heard someone say it costs him $100 for gas in his truck, and it didn’t even fill the tank that he previously filled for under $50.


So what can be done to help in these hard times?

I like this Forbes article with 15 tips to help: “Here’s How To Maintain Customer Service, Even When You’re Short-Staffed.”

Here are the first five items listed, with a brief explanation:

1. Take Care Of Your Employees

If you take care of your employees, they'll take care of your customers. Make sure you're following up constantly to make sure they feel seen, heard and supported. Let them know you understand they're in a difficult situation, but you are in the proverbial foxhole with them. - Brian Hennessy, Talkoot, inc.

2. Be Proactive, Not Reactive

Remain focused on being proactive versus reactive. Increase touchpoints, where and when appropriate. Lead with empathy. Embrace interactions with clients through email, voice and in person with a mindset of listening first to understand. While it’s natural to focus on efficiency, it should not come at the expense of purpose. - Gregory Roll, Touchpoint Associates

3. Let Them Know You Care

Communicate often! Let them know you, as the leader, care and hear them. Teamwork and recognition are absolutely essential during times of being short-staffed. Something as simple as a company lunch with pizza brought in can lift spirits at a fraction of the cost of losing a good employee. - Natalie Barnes, Business Alliance Inc.

4. Create a Supportive Space

Managers need to connect with employees to create a supportive space during stressful times. When employees feel supported, they are able to ensure their level of support to customers is being recognized and they feel valued. - Roxanne Derhodge, Roxanne Derhodge Consulting

5. Focus Your Team on Your Top Accounts

In the current economic conditions, leaders often believe that major customer pain points are price, lead times and product availability. But, the No. 1 customer need is engagement. This means more communication, collaboration and visibility. For customer service, you must prioritize your top accounts who are responsible for most of your revenue and profit. Focus your workforce accordingly. - Dave Philippi, Strategex


This topic hits home for Americans in different ways, and I have experienced this frustration firsthand over the past three months. The situation seems to be getting worse as prices increase for products and services that are harder to find.

I see many organizations using increased self-service and electronic options to help improve customer satisfaction in both the public and private sector. While this certainly can help reduce costs and provide an alternative that requires less staff, make sure your clients have a way to talk with a live person when and if they need to do so.

No matter how good your apps or website are at helping solve problems and enabling customer service, there is no substitute for a helpful person who cares and is available in a timely fashion. This is even true for technology roles and cybersecurity professionals.
Daniel J. Lohrmann is an internationally recognized cybersecurity leader, technologist, keynote speaker and author.