Israeli Business Owners: Let’s Talk about Customer Experience

Three weeks ago, I decided to quit my gym membership. It was for no particular reason — it just wasn’t my scene and I didn’t see the value in spending 289 shekels a month on it anymore. So, I went in and quit.

Little did I know that the gym would treat it as a dramatic and sudden breakup after years of dating.

Okay, warning now: The next few paragraphs might seem like a whiney Yelp review. Bare with me. There’s a point, a promise.

In the weeks following, they called me repeatedly at work to ask why I was quitting. Each time I told them that it just wasn’t “matim lee,” and said I had to go because I was working. This was obviously annoying — if they wanted to know why I was quitting, wouldn’t they have asked me on the day that I went in to cancel my membership? And why don’t they have it in my file that they’ve already called me about this multiple times?

Another few days go by, and I get yet another call saying that they’ll be charging me additional funds. They had already charged me 400 shekels extra to cancel the membership, and now they were suddenly saying that I owed them more money out of nowhere. Toward the end of this annoying call, they eventually asked AGAIN why I was quitting.

Now it was time to tell them.

I told them that it was because they have terrible customer service and they think it’s acceptable to treat their members so poorly. The American-Israeli employee working there then went on to argue with me about my feedback, even though it was him who had called me to ask for it. He said it was my issue, I probably don’t have a lot of friends (to be specific, he said I only had “four friends”), and that the gym must be great because all of his friends loved it. I told him to stop wasting my time and hung up.

I had paid almost 5,000 shekels to them over the past two years, and suddenly my experience and feedback — which they called me repeatedly in the middle of my work day to ask for — was invalid. My experience didn’t matter, yet his, as an employee, did (although I never asked about it, he still shared it with me). He couldn’t take the criticism and just say “thank you for your feedback, we’re sorry you had this experience,” as any gym should. Instead, he became defensive, argued with me, and then blamed it on me.

Later that night, I told my Israeli boyfriend Eliav about the upsetting and confrontational experience. He was disgusted by their behavior and insisted that we go to the gym to confront them about it. Eliav proceeded to argue with them, they refused apologize, and said that if we were so upset, then we “should just sue them.” Yes, that’s right. A national Israeli company responds to their customers’ complaints by saying that we should sue them. Not solve it or listen or try to help. Just take it to court.

Clearly, this was a customer experience nightmare. I then insisted that their manager call me, which of course, he never did. When I called back to try to get a hold of him, a front desk employee said that “he’ll call you when he eventually has time.”

Although this was an extreme case, most know that customer service in Israel is pretty disappointing. You know what I’m talking about. You go into a restaurant and it takes 20 minutes for a waiter to even recognize you’re sitting there. You enter a store and the owner acts as if you should be grateful that he let you in. A handyman is supposed to come fix something at your apartment, and when you call him to ask why he never showed up, he acts as if you’re a bother. The woman working at the MAC counter in Dizengoff Center says she “doesn’t have time to help you,” even though you’re the only one in the store.

Okay, that’s enough.

The point is, everything leads to an argument or some sort of awkward hostility. No one helps a customer unless it’s demanded. The issue that you approached them for is rarely solved with ease.

And you know what? I’m really tired of people telling me that “this is just Israel.” Israelis are “just like that.” Tell me, what exactly is “just Israel”? Being treated badly by people I’m giving my money to? Expecting basic politeness from salesmen? Thinking that they’ll want to help you since they’ll make more money on it? Why is that so crazy? I’m really not asking for a lot here. Just super basic customer service.

The truth is, this attitude toward customers in Israel can’t last forever. Customer experience, both online and offline, has become increasingly important thanks to the interconnectedness of the internet. Today, if you walk into a store and don’t like the service you received, you can jump on your computer and order the same product for cheaper. We can read reviews, learn how to use products, compare prices, and rate customer experiences all online. Whether Israeli businesses want to recognize that is up to them. But, the truth is that, there’s a reason that Israeli buyers have turned to e-commerce sites like Ali Express for purchasing instead of local stores. Why? Because the entire experience is significantly easier, and that’s worth a lot more than most realize.

Don’t believe me? Check out these stats on the importance of customer experience in 2016. Israeli businesses and service people, please pay attention.

1. According to a Walker study, by the year 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.

2. The same study says that 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience.

service-1Infographic by SuperOffice

3. Providing a good customer experience goes a long way. It improves customer retention, customer experience, and an increase in cross-selling / upselling opportunities.

service-2Infographic by Genesys


4. You have to offer customer service in multiple settings, including in-person interactions, social media, over the phone, and your website. Aberdeen Group Inc. says that companies with the strongest omni-channel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers, as compared to 33% for companies with weak omni-channel strategies.

5. 89% of customers get frustrated because they need to repeat their issues to multiple representatives. To no surprise, 87% of customers think that brands need to put more effort into providing a consistent experience.


Infographic by SuperOffice

6. Your website’s user experience on mobile is crucial to good customer service. 52% of customers are less likely to engage with your company because of bad mobile experience. In fact, 90% of customers say they have had poor experience seeking customer support on mobile.

7. According to Esteban Kolsky, if the customers are not satisfied, 13% of them will tell to 15 or even more people that they are unhappy (I was definitely one of those people with Holmes Place). On the other hand, 72% of customers will share a positive experience with 6 or more people.


Infographic by ClaraBridge

8. A customer is 4 times more likely to buy from a competitor if it’s service-related verses price or product-related.

The numbers are there and we’re valuing customer service more and more every day. Israelis, for the sake of your businesses and for this country, it’s time to start treating your customers right. Because at the end of the day, you’re not hurting anyone but yourselves.

About the Author
Lena Elkins is a Millennial Business Coach and the host of the popular Facebook group, Millennial Go-Getters. Lena teachers her community of over 15,000 Gen-Y entrepreneurs how to strategize, launch, and scale 6-figure online businesses. Originally from the San Francisco By Area, Lena now lives in Tel Aviv.
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