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Is customer service experience your top priority?

By John Tschohl, Founder and President, Service Quality Institute
October 1, 2013
Filed under Dealer Consultants

John-TschohlMost companies think they provide great customer service. However, a recent survey conducted by Echo Research for American Express found there is still room for much improvement for most companies when it comes to providing great customer service.

The survey, which was conducted in the U.S. and ten other countries, found that:

- 1 out of 3 (32%) customers feel businesses are paying less attention to customer service these days.
- 1 in 3 feel companies are not meeting their expectations (31%) for good customer service.
- Even more striking was the fact that 9 out of 10 (93%) say that companies are failing to exceed their customer service expectations.

Which means most companies are just doing enough to get by when it comes to providing good customer service.

The top gripes that consumers have when it comes to customer service focus primarily around their negative interactions with a company’s representatives:

A third (33%) cite rude or unresponsive customer service representatives as the most likely reason why they might switch from one brand or company to another.

One out of four (26%) say being shuffled back and forth from one representative to another is what would make them switch.

Consumers are telling more people about their customer service experiences than ever before. On average someone will tell 15 people about their good experiences and 24 people about their bad experiences. Bad experiences are talked about (56%) more than good experiences (48%), proving the old adage that consumers are much more likely to share a bad customer experience than a good one.

Bring in the fact that social media makes it easier than ever to share your experiences with people than ever before, and companies better start paying attention. What people have to say about your company is now part of what your marketing team has to deal with as they work to generate demand and maintain the company’s brand image.

If these statistics don’t get you to start thinking more about the importance of making customer service a top priority at your company, here are a few more that should:

Two thirds of consumers (66%) said they are willing to spend more with a company they believe provides good customer service.

Over half (55%) say they have passed up a business transaction in the past year due to a poor customer service experience.

It’s time to wake up! Making customer service a priority not only leads to happier customers, but also is something you can turn into a competitive advantage for your company and increase profits.

Despite the increased ways of handling customer service through email, website chat rooms, social media and other forms technology, great customer service still comes down to having motivated people who deliver it and are able to form good relationships with your customers.

Making customer service a priority at your company takes commitment, along with developing a plan to get there. Other steps you need to pay attention to when making customer service a priority for your business include:

  • No matter what business you are in, be it insurance, banking or selling cars, you must understand you are first in the customer service business.
  • Identify what is working and what is not working with your current customer service practices. Eliminate any rules or policies that are upsetting your customers. Having great people enforcing bad rules is not a good solution.
  • Gather as much information from your customers on their needs and what you must do to meet them.
  • Use other companies that provide great customer service as role models. Organizations such as Dell, Delta, Marriott, or the Mayo Clinic are a few of the ones I admire.
  • Provide a guarantee to your customers that they will receive certain services within a given time.
  • Always be tracking your progress through surveys or focus groups, as well as looking at sales figures, to determine how you are doing.
  • Hire the right people. If you want your employees to treat your customers well, you need to hire people with the right attitude who love helping customers. As all the training in the world can’t fix a bad attitude.
  • Be 10 times faster than your competition. Amazon built a company around speed.

Perhaps the most important item to consider is to provide your employees with continuous training (at least every 4 months) as well as incentives for high-performance. Listen to your employees on ways to improve and empower them to make decisions in favor of the customer.

Creating a customer service culture takes time. If you are not committed to it, you will ultimately fail to provide your customers with effective customer service. This will not only lead to more unhappy customers, but also eventually impact your bottom line.

John Tschohl, the internationally recognized service strategist, is founder and president of the Service Quality Institute in Minneapolis. Described by USA Today, Time, and Entrepreneur as a “customer service guru,” he has written several books on customer service and has developed more than 26 customer-service training programs that have been distributed throughout the world. John’s monthly strategic newsletter is available online at www.customer-service.com.

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