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Service is increasingly a matter of "Time"

I spent this past weekend with an old high school friend who is now a professor at a university in Michigan. Throughout the weekend we enjoyed spirited conversation about a myriad of subjects. Quite often our conversation would lead to a trivial question for which neither of us had an answer.

"I'll check it," my friend would say pulling out his smartphone and doing a quick search. "I love this thing!" he would then say as his impromptu curiosity was satiated by the immediate gratification of information.

For twenty years my firm has measured the key drivers of customer satisfaction for many different companies in many different industries. Back in the day, customer satisfaction was largely driven by two simplefactors: resolution of the issue and courtesy of the Customer Service Representative (CSR) who was assisting the customer. While the courtesy and friendliness of the CSR continues to be a crucial piece of the customer satisfaction equation, the issue of resolution has become more complex.

Customers are no longer satisfied by having their issue resolved. Increasingly, they are sensitive to issues of timeliness in the resolution of their issues:

  • How easy is it to reach a person who can help me?
  • How quickly can I reach the right person? (without having to be transferred around or two speak to multiple people)
  • Can the CSR resolve my issue without delay? (having to put me on hold)
  • If follow-up is necessary, how timely will that follow-up be?

For better or worse, we live in a world in which seemingly everything is immediately available at our fingertips 24/7/365. A curious question that rises out of casual conversation can be immediately answered. In this age of immediate gratification, customers are less and less satisfied when their customer service issues cannot be handled and resolved in a "timely" [read: immediate] manner.

Businesses, especially small businesses, may not always have the resources to provide instant gratification that customers want. Everyone, however, can be mindful of a customer's sensitivity to time. Acknowledging and apologizing for delays, providing time frame for follow-up, and proactive communication are within the ability of every one of us.

- Tom Vander Well


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Couldn't agree with you more on this. I can't tell you how frustrating it is when I have a question, or issue with service, and I call up and go through 5 minutes of talking to a computer when I know I need a person. The amount of negative "word of mouth" a company gets when it isn't handling my issue in a timely manner, is through the roof. And I don't even usually take to social media to complain of the service. Really good post Tom.

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