Is retail customer service getting worse?

There are different types of customer service.  ARMA, for instance, is involved in a business-to-business customer service, where we strive to make sure our clients are getting the support they need, so that they in turn can serve their customers. Most people are exposed to business-to-consumer customer service.  As we have discussed here before, this type of customer service can actually make or break a customer relationship.

A new study by Emphatica, Inc. shows that 55% of  Canadian and American customers feel that customer service at retail outlets has gotten worse. The study is revealed in this article on Chain Leader, a trade publication. What is interesting is that because of the recession, customers are spending less money but are expecting better service.

One interesting item in the study found that  in the restaurant trade:

The data also revealed that customer service is so important to U.S. consumers, that one in five respondents said they value good customer service over good food.

Furthermore, bad service DAMAGED the restaurant’s brand perception:

The survey found that those who receive poor service — even at a restaurant they’ve been to several times –can cause huge damage to a brand. One in four U.S. consumers stated they would tell others not to go there in addition to never going again.

It is hard to say whether customer service in retail has gotten worse if we also know expectations are higher. Perhaps customer service has remained constant, and people, who have been getting more careful with their spending, are being more judicious in where and how they spend it. What do you think?