You can’t go more than a few days without hearing about how inflation is coming for all of our money. Depending on who you’re talking to, we are either in the early stages of 1930s Germany or the 1980s US. To be honest, I don’t know if inflation is here to stay or if it will only be a temporary event.
However, there is something I do fear and find frustrating: skimpflation. I love this term and first heard it in an NPR episode. Skimpflation happens when we pay for a good or service, but we get slightly less value than we used to. Paying for a flight without snacks or ordering takeout that takes an hour are examples of this concept.
After two years of the pandemic, we have become accustomed to skimpflation practices, but some companies are still using it as an excuse to offer poor service. For example, I had to change two flights recently, and their customer support wait time was over 1 hour for both — and 2.5 hours for one (I see you Air Canada).
In another instance, I bought clothes from a retailer that doesn’t offer phone support and funnels everything to email. It’s been over a week since I first sent my request, with no response. These companies would likely point to staffing shortages, inflation, supply chain issues, and the inconvenient position of the moon in relation to the earth as the causes of their poor customer service.
The reality is that not all companies are suffering from these issues. United and Delta aren’t canceling hundreds of flights. There are retailers that can still offer timely customer support. My local bank realized that their call wait times were too long, so they introduced a service where you can book a callback time (which actually works). You can always find counterexamples.
I don’t fear inflation, and I doubt that we are in the early stages of 1930s Germany. I do worry about companies continuing to use inflation as an excuse for poor processes and operations. That could go on for a long time.
If a company is in this situation, you need to find the true root cause of the problem. Staffing problems may be a result of poor hiring packages and benefits. Long wait times may be unavoidable, but you could offer an option to book appointments or live chat. There are always options, but we need to tackle the tangible.