"Nothing in the marketplace is revving consumer interest," says Paula Ann Hughes, the dean and professor of management at the University of Dallas Graduate School of Management.She
wonders whether consumers have all grown a little spoiled. Hughes
says, "The fact is, this decade-long economic expansion - the largest in our history - indeed has created a mind-numbing surfeit of goods, services, and retail venues - and that's before you log on to the Internet.She
points to a town with 15 Mexican food restaurants within three miles and five major supermarkets within a stone's throw of each other.
"Welcome to America circa
2000, where we are bored by an embarrassment of riches," she
says."That's being more cynical than realistic, however.The fact is, the marketplace is boring.Just because we have a lot of choices in where to shop does not mean the experience is anything other than cookie-cutter predictable."She
says that's a compliment to retailers since they are offering better service than in years past - particularly in the most competitive sectors.
So if retailers are doing such a good job, why are we consumers bored?Because many of us already have more products than we need, and customer service is taken for granted.Consumers know that when it comes to buying goods and services, they now have the upper hand.They can demand a higher level of service and better products, and the marketplace has to provide it.They know that in this economy, only the most customer-oriented stores are going to survive.
"For business owners, the bar just won't stop rising when it comes to customer service," Hughes
adds."That's a frustrating fact for many businesses - the ones that believe they've done as much as they can.At these businesses, managers are proud of the improvements they've made, and they feel they can't do anything to stop competitors from imitating their customer-service programs."
The reality, however, is this: Unless there is an economic downturn that pares the number of players, even aggressive companies are going to have to work harder to create standout customer service.And lowering prices will no longer do the trick.Armed with a great deal of spending power, consumers are willing to pay more - and travel a greater distance - to buy products where they believe service is highest.