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What Do Customers Want: Resolution or Courtesy?

ChoresImage by David Reber's Hammer Photography via Flickr

I had a great e-mail from a reader last week. He asked a question I know many Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) struggle with. Working in a customer service contact center, he is held accountable to provide a fair measure of courtesies, or "soft skills," on every call. Yet, he's frustrated when he hears customers say, "You've been very nice, but you didn't really solve my problem."

Don't customers just want their problem resolved? "They don't care if we're nice. Customers just want resolution," I've heard many CSRs say.

Yes and no. Yes, customers want resolution. With years of experience measuring customer satisfaction across many different companies, I can tell you that resolution is usually the number one driver of customer satisfaction when they call a company's contact center. Resolution, however, is most often a "penalty variable" in the customers mind. In other words, the customer won't reward you for resolving his or her issue. It's simply what they expect. If you don't resolve it, however, they will penalize you.

I think of it in terms of my children doing their chores. I don't gush all over them because they did what they were expected to do: "Oh my dear child. You are wonderful! You are awesome! I can't praise you enough for taking out the trash!!" That's not how it works. Kids don't get rewarded for simply doing the menial chores expected of them. They will, however, be penalized (e.g. grounding, loss of privleges, etc.) if they fail to do them.

Courtesy and friendliness are usually other key drivers of customer satisfaction. Though generally not as important in the customer's mind, soft skills are typically a "reward variable." The nicer, more personable and friendly we are (not robotic, canned friendly, but conversationally friendly) the more the customer rewards us with increased satisfaction.

Leading companies usually understand that customer satisfaction and loyalty require a combination of resolving the customer's issue while serving up exemplary soft skills. Either one without the other is an opportunity missed.

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