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Do You Leave the "Customer" Out of "Customer Service?"

"Benchmarking" has been a growing trend in business for some time. Corporate managers and executives regularly ask about customer surveys that will "benchmark" their service against other companies in the industry. I understand the lure.

Upper management loves to show their Board of Directors a bunch of charts and graphs that show they are rated in the "Top Ten" for customer service. Those nifty plaques look good in the lobby trophy case. Marketing departments love to tout that "Finkledorpher and Associates rank us #1 for Customer Service!" (right Drew?).

But before you have that trophy case installed, let's think about it...

  • What if every company in your industry provides awful service? I'm a loyal Chicago Cubs fan [waiting for the snickers and groans of pity to die down]. So what if the Cubs are rated number one in fan loyalty? They're still, at best, a mediocre baseball team with huge problems in their bull-pen. I'm always amused when computer companies like Dell and HP tout their great customer service rankings. Everyone knows that all computer companies are notorious for offering 2nd rate, outsourced tech support. Being ranked number one among the mediocre may make you feel better - but it won't help your long-term success.
  • Your customers don't care about your rank - they care about their experience. What is really important to the long term success of your business is knowing what your customers expect and then meeting/exceeding those expectations. While you're touting your customer service ranking your customers are making future purchase decisions based on the real moments of truth they are having with your front-line employees. You might be feeling really great about the plaque on your wall while your customers are exiting in droves.
  • You need actionable data. Recently, our group delivered a focused customer satisfaction survey to one division of a large, international corporation. The project provided a wealth of customer data regarding what this division needed to do to increase satisfaction and loyalty across their customers. When the division manager began sharing the data with her colleagues - the other divisions were blown away. They had to admit that they had wasted a lot of money with big-name research firms to provide them with data so broad and general it didn't help them make strategic action plans for improvement. It was just another nice looking notebook with a big name to place on the bookshelf.

Successful customer service begins with knowing your customers, knowing what your customers expect, and making changes to your service delivery system in order to exceed those expectations. The real customer service trophy is your bottom line - when your customers keep coming back for a service experience your competitors can't deliver.

Are you leaving your customer out of your customer service equation?

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Comments

Tom, you ask a powerful question. Great post and I appreciate the reference to Flooring The Consumer.

Always happy to link to quality posts by quality writers, C.B. You write such link-able stuff! Cheers!

Tom,

You are very right. All too often, companies covet awards because its good for their ego, not their customers.

There's nothing wrong with winning an award and we should be proud of it. But we need to always think from the perspective of the client and remember that they're asking..."what's in it for me?"

Drew

Absolutely, Drew. Awards are great - especially when they really mean something.

I've always been a little suspicious of Hollywood and their never-ending stream of award shows. In too many cases, it's not what the consumer thinks of the show or the performance, but it's the entertainment industry patting each other on the back with no regard to what the consumer thinks.

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