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When Exceptions are the Rule

That's one special customerImage by mag3737 via Flickr

When it comes to customer service, you have to decide where customer service delivery lies in your overall branding and business strategy. Here are three examples:

  • Exceptional Service is an accident. This applies to the company who has no idea what their customers expect (they haven't asked), no idea what level of service they are providing (they haven't listened), and no real strategy for what customer service means to their brand, their customer or their loyalty. Our group recently finished a pilot project for a company who has branded themselves as the provider of quality products, but had not given much thought to their customers' experience calling the company. Results of a small customer satisfaction survey and corresponding Service Quality Assessment revealed that their customers were not happy with the level of service they received, and were more than willing to express that the service experience did not reflect the company's brand. When customers were getting good service it was because they were fortunate enough to get a good Customer Service Representative (CSR) on the phone.
  • Exceptional Service is an exception. This reflects a company who is committed to providing a minimal level of customer service. The masses can expect mediocrity that will typically not detract from, but certainly won't enhance, the average customer experience. If a customer has a problem and screams loud enough, the company will make an exception. Take a moment to read about and consider the experience of local blogger and PR Princess Claire Celsi with Dell Computers. After a long journey up the customer service escalation escalator, she sums up her observations to Dell's final response:

...there is no apology for the time I've wasted trying to get this situation fixed. And for good measure, they've let me know that making something right and trying to make a customer happy is not something they normally offer. [emphasis added]

  • Exceptional Service is the rule. There are certain companies who have opted to take the customer service high road, believing that consistently providing an exceptional customer service experience will differentiate them from their competitors. This makes me think of another client who, over the years, has invested in making sure their inside sales team and regional account managers are providing a consistent, exceptional service experience unmatched by any other company in their marketplace. They didn't start as a great service provider. They took the time to learn what their customers expected, measure what they were actually delivering, and set high expectations for their team. Their steady improvement and high standards have paid off. As a result they have been able outpace the competition, outperform sales projections, and maintain enviable margins throughout the recession while their competitors are going out of business.

My experience is that most company executives will speak about customer service being important to the company and to the brand because it is politically expedient to do so. Let's face it, few executives would have the guts to broadcast that customer service is really not high on their priority list. The proof of a company's commitment to customer service is in the hundreds, thousands, and millions of individual customer experiences that take place each day.

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Comments

Tom: thanks for highlighting my problem with Dell. As I've pointed out to them several times, it's NOT just that I've had an isolated problem with ONE machine. I have THREE new machines, two of which were COMPLETELY disabled and one that has a major flaw. So in this situation, they need to get their head out of their rule book and put on their thinking cap. Do they really want me to keep talking about this situation for as long as I live? Probably not. So they should fix it.
Best, Claire

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