|Exceptional Customer Service is Not Complicated.|
By Steve Curtin
Saturday, 26th May 2012
I recently read through the American Express 2012 Global Customer Service Barometer research report prepared by Echo Research and found many of the findings to be rather predictable.
There was one page, however, that got my attention. On p. 12 of the report, consumers were asked, “Which of the following customer service issues would be most likely to influence you to switch brands or companies?”
- Consumers think businesses are paying less attention to providing good customer service
- Consumers will spend more with companies that provide excellent service
- Consumers value excellent service
- Consumers are telling more people about their customer service experiences
- Poor service can lead to lost sales
- Consumers lose their temper with customer service representatives
- There is room for improvement in customer service wait times
[Although I would have appreciated this more as an open-ended question (i.e., “What customer service issues have caused you to switch brands or companies?”), that's not how this survey was formatted.]
In response to the question, a third of consumers (33%) cited “a rude or unresponsive customer service representative” as the most likely customer service issue to influence them to switch brands or companies.
What’s remarkable to me about this finding is that it’s consistent with consumer research from three decades ago. I recall TARP statistics (1978) and research from Dr. Michael LeBoeuf (1987) that exposed poor treatment by employees (rudeness or indifference) as the number one cause for customer defection.
But, as elementary as it sounds, I suppose it bears repeating:
If you’re an employee: The most effective way to further your work objectives (e.g., receive more hours, earn desirable shifts, increase tips, advance your career, etc.) is to be kind to customers and demonstrate a sense of urgency in responding to them.
If you’re an employer: The most effective way to grow your company is to hire kind employees who have a history of demonstrating a sense of urgency in responding to customers. (This information can be obtained through behavioral interviewing questions designed to reveal a person’s actual past behavior—rather than prompt imagined responses to pie-in-the-sky hypothetical questions—during a job interview.)
As the American Express report indicates, exceptional customer service is not complicated. It starts with kind employees who are responsive to customers’ needs. It’s really quite simple when you think about it.
Thank you for reading.
P.s. Incidentally, other than rude or indifferent treatment by employees, what customer service issues have caused you to switch brands or companies?
Steve has 20 years of experience between hotel operations, sales and marketing, training and development, and customer service roles working for Marriott International, one of the premiere customer-focused companies in the world.
As the Area Director of Training for the New York City market, Steve organized the training efforts at more than a dozen area hotels to successfully coordinate corporate-wide training initiatives. While at the NY Marriott Marquis, Steve worked with a team of Marriott executives to implement training that resulted in dramatic increases in employee and customer satisfaction scores. One such initiative titled The Basics was adapted from the Ritz-Carlton Gold Standards in 1998 and branded by Marriott headquarters to become a company-wide initiative involving more than 3,000 hotels.