In case you are a busy person and do not have the time, or the wish, to read the whole post, here is the answer: the quality of customer service in Israel is so bad because senior management in Israel does not care about the service provided to customers.
How do I know that?
Simply: Because senior managers have no way of knowing whether their customers are happy with their services.
How do I know that?
Simply: Because senior managers in Israel do not bother to operate a feedback mechanism that would ultimately allow them control over the quality of service that their employees deliver, or, chas ve-chalilah, even occasionally engage in improving service processes (as a result of this feedback).
How do I know all that?
Simply: By comparing the experience I have getting service from companies abroad (via the Internet) and from companies in Israel. In last year alone, I had experienced service provided by two companies abroad and four companies in Israel. The former consisted of a large international corporation that provides computer security, the other is a big software corporation that provides me with software for mathematical and statistical calculations (via Ben-Gurion University, from which I have retired last year). In each case of receiving services from abroad, less than twenty-four hours to service completion I had received a short and succinct questionnaire asking me both to grade the service, detail complaints (if any) and suggest recommendations for improvement.
What was the corresponding service I have had with the Israeli companies?
Unlike services received from abroad, where invariably a feedback was requested, in Israel such feedback mechanism is mostly unheard of. What is the local alternative to this mechanism, “invented” in the Start-up Nation? Ah-ah, here it is: “For your knowledge, some communications are recorded in order to improve service”. That is the automatic message you routinely get on the phone before reaching the company representative. We, Jews, are doing business differently from the rest of the world; Please remember, we are smarter. Senior management in Israel obviously believe that this recorded message is sufficient to ensure quality of service. Translation: “Please do not bother us with details of who is the employee that drove you crazy”. Neat and simple: “We, senior managers in Israel, are simply not interested in our customers, or the quality of service provided, more so when our company holds monopoly on certified services for the particular international corporation, whose product you had purchased.”
Three Examples (all large supposedly respected companies)
Company 1: A well-known company that produces beds and mattresses.
My experience: Promised timetable to providing the merchandise not kept, resulting in countless enquiries about planned delivery of the (expensive) merchandise. Ultimately, when the bed and mattress finally arrived, the delivery company refused to take away the old mattress (as written in contract), leaving it on the pavement, regardless of our plea that doing so would violate local municipality regulations and render us accessories to this offense. Telephone calls to the company had reached a senior manager, responsible to deliveries in this company, but to no avail. “Senior managers in this country do not care about their customers” – have I already said that?
Company 2: An international company, with branches in Israel, which provides furniture, including kitchens.
My experience: In designing the kitchen on the computer with the company’s rep, I have made the point that all kitchen cupboards be fastened to the wall by metal strips. These add constructional strength to the kitchen, badly needed, for example, during an earthquake. Of course I had to pay extra for this option (suggested to me by the company during the design phase).
Sure enough, the company guy who had installed the kitchen decided, without notifying me, prior or after, that these strips “are not really needed”, and left unused on the floor nearly half of the metal strips provided with the order (according to the kitchen design). Furthermore, since it is inconvenient to remove debris left over from his work, the company guy simply left it for me to clean, being well aware that I would not be able to do that on my own.
Any consequences for this employee? None whatsoever. Why? Because senior management in this company, after receiving from me thousands of shekels, simply did not care about the quality of its services. How do I know? Simply: Because unless I had complained (which I eventually did), senior management in this company had no way of knowing whether I was satisfied since no feedback mechanism was available to provide them with the crucial information needed for control of the quality of service provided by their employees and for possible process improvements (excluding, of course, the ridiculous and useless automatic message: “For your knowledge, to ensure quality some of the talks on this line are recorded”).
Company 3: This company is the only one in this country that provides certified services for a certain large international computer company.
My experience: Since I have at home two computers of this brand I have turned to this company for service. My communication with the company is supposed to be in three phases: Preparing a quote for the required service, coordinating a technician visit and carrying out the work.
At the moment, two weeks after I first turned to this company, and a week since I have paid in advance (at the company’s insistent demand), I have not yet heard from the company. Complete silence, “after all we already have your money”.
Hello there, senior managers: Are you interested in knowing why in the company under your watch it takes over a week to prepare a quote for a simple maintenance work on a computer? Are you interested to know why a week after paying in advance, no body “on your watch” has yet contacted me? Silence…Not unlike the silence I had experienced some years ago, after painstakingly describing the numerous problems I had encountered, as a customer, with a cruise in the Mediterranean, operated by a cruise liner in Israel. Again, no response from a possibly curious management, who might be interested in process improvement, especially coming from a professor specializing in quality and in process improvement (as I made clear in my feedback form, assuring management that no fees would be charged for my advice). Yet again, complete silence…
In conclusion, a word of hope: Although to my unfortunate continuous experience most companies in Israel conform to the depressing patterns outlined above, there are exceptions. I service my car in a certified garage that consistently phone me after service to investigate whether I was satisfied. A complaint I had submitted about major errors in the user-interface of the Internet site of a major insurance company in Israel was dealt with within twenty-four hours by a return phone call and a promise for a corrective action.
Regrettably, these are exceptions rather than the rule.
Why is senior management in Israel so unconcerned with the quality of service their companies provide? I believe that one major factor is lack of real competitiveness due to existence of monopolies, often in the form of hidden unlawful cartels (notwithstanding advanced antitrust laws that exist in this country). Monopoly hinders competitiveness and despite incessant efforts by the government to increase competitiveness in the Israeli economy, the sheer size of the local population often facilitates formation of hidden cartels that hinder real competitiveness, resulting in high prices and low-quality services.
My plea to senior managers in Israel: Please conform to managerial practices used world-wide and show some interest in the level of satisfaction of your customers. Please make sure that whenever you provide service you take the initiative to learn from the customer whether s/he had been satisfied, and if not – why and how service can be improved. Because only this way may you deliver incentive to your employees to be attentive to the service that they provide. And only this way you may ultimately bring about a major shift in the quality of services provided to Israeli citizens.