What Killed Customer Service? A Business Acumen Perspective


If you have started to get reacclimated to what you thought was the “normal world” beforecustomer-service-business-acumen-2 the COVID pandemic, you are in for many surprises. The new normal is not the old normal. Things are very different and many of the things you took for granted, like basic customer service, are mere ghosts of themselves.

One of the first places you will find things very different is airports. During the past several weeks, as I’ve been flying again to visit with clients and to deliver the live portions of our blended business simulation-centric learning solutions, the lack of customer service in the ticket lines, the restrooms, and the restaurants is astounding. This week alone I tried to eat dinner at a higher-end (not fast food) airport restaurant only to find it impossible. The first time I had to wait almost 40 minutes and my meal never came. The second time it took more than 45 minutes and I had to have my salad packed as a to-go meal.

And it’s not just airports. Retail (grocery, drug, clothing, etc.), hotels, ride-share services, and even the security people at the corporate offices I’ve visited seem different and act like they simply don’t care about customers anymore.

So, what is happening? Why has customer service almost disappeared? For the almost 9,000 readers of this blog, you know where this is going; trying to discover answers to business questions through business acumen.

5 Business Acumen Reasons for the Death of Customer Service

Supply and demand of Talent

This one is the most logical. There are more service jobs available than people to fill them. According to the latest data Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are about 50 million job openings in the general service areas of retail, hospitality, and food services. That number does not include other service-oriented industries such as financial services and healthcare providers.

One of the foundational capabilities of Business Acumen is understanding the law of supply and demand. When there is more supply than demand, jobs are harder to find, and theoretically, workers providing service try harder to keep their jobs and earn promotions. Conversely, when the supply of jobs is greater than the talent available, theoretically workers don’t have to try as hard because they are in no danger of losing their jobs if they perform poorly.

I believe there is an interesting sub-component to the issue of supply and demand and that comes from the migration of retail to online. There is the perception that eCommerce is going to kill retail. If that’s the case, why bother going into retail? It has become a self-fulfilling prophesy and the more people think human retail jobs are going away the less likely they are to go into retail. That means that there is even less supply of qualified, passionate retailers and that transcends all aspects of the service market including restaurants and hospitality.

The Great Resignation

By now you have heard of the great resignation where employees are quitting their jobs in droves because they are unhappy and because they can. Many of the people quitting their jobs don’t have anything new lined up yet, they are just taking a break. Again, because there are fewer people in the workforce, there are fewer people in service roles providing customer service, and the entire culture and orientation of customer service declines.


Taking all the politics out of the conversation, the data still speaks for itself; COVID is still here, and people continue to get sick. According to the latest CDC data, COVID cases are spiking yet again with week-over-week increases of over 40%. Calling out sick due to COVID is an everyday occurrence around the world and it feels that emotionally people are just resigned to the fact they will be shorthanded.

Lack of Pride in Service

It used to be service workers would take great pride in their work. It seems now that pride has been replaced with indignation. That indignation is most likely caused by all of the factors mentioned so far, but at the same time there the desire and knowledge of what is great service and how to provide it is clearly missing. For leaders who run businesses where some or all of your value proposition to customers is service, I think it is important to remember that having service professionals be kind and thoughtful to their customers adds no more cost to the profit and loss statement.


My final thought is about skills. I believe part of the reason that customer service is dying is that organizations have stopped investing in skills. It feels like there is an inherent belief that providing customer service is a natural skill but as we all know, that is simply not the case. Like any other business where one organization provides a value proposition to customers who pay for that value, training and maintenance of skills are critical.

In summary, providing service is becoming a lost art. There are many reasons for it, and I mentioned just five of them here. As a business leader, you should think about the business acumen implications and perhaps develop a new approach to take advantage of opportunities and help to save your business from long-term challenges.

New call-to-action

Robert Brodo

About The Author

Robert Brodo is co-founder of Advantexe. He has more than 20 years of training and business simulation experience.