(Un) Customer Service = Customer (Dis) Satisfaction
A friend’s elderly mother purchased a new car. She opened the owner’s manual to figure out how to set her favorite radio stations before driving home. Imagine her surprise to find that the sales person had already programmed the radio stations in the new car from her old one! A friend stopped on her way home from a manicure, saying she just had to tell someone about the experience she had with her manicurist, who not only walked her to her car and opened the door but put the key in the ignition and started the car so my friend wouldn’t muss up her nail polish.
Did my friends talk about the new car and the fabulous manicure or the value added service they received? Certainly both, but the value added services led the conversation in every telling!
We feel satisfied when we get something that we need or want because our desires are fulfilled. We know that a customer can be anyone who receives something they perceive to be of value, a product or a service, from an individual or organization. Customers are both internal and external to the organization, each with his or her needs, wants and desires.
Customer service standards are on the rise. When customers deal with you, they compare you to anyone else from whom they’ve received (great) service, not just someone from the same industry.
Take grocery shopping, for example. Why am I drawn to Trader Joes when other stores are closer to home and, in some cases, less expensive? I shop there because it’s fun. I like the experience of helpful staff and tasty food samples that get me to try something new. I feel like I’m being ‘taken care of’ while I’m there.
Why do we stand in line at Starbucks, paying a premium for a product we can make at home for mere pennies? Few of us return to Starbucks for the coffee as much as we return for the total experience of perceived added value. We are willing to pay for a value-unique experience in the form of product or service excellence.
We enter a store because we trust we will get what we want or need there. We return because that store has exceeded our expectations. We are satisfied customers.
If, according to management guru Peter Drucker, the only valid purpose for any business is to create and satisfy a customer, how do businesses gather feedback to ensure success?
Toyota service departments leave a thank you card in the car following service, often following up with a telephone call to make sure problems have been resolved. Hotels routinely leave short questionnaires in rooms, asking guests to rate their level of satisfaction with staff efficiency, room cleanliness and food quality. GoDaddy emails a link to a quick online questionnaire. My accounting firm sends a client satisfaction questionnaire complete with a self addressed stamped envelope, asking me to rate their initiative in providing advice, their availability for calls and meetings, the timeliness of their work, and understanding of my concerns.
When seeking feedback, it is vital that businesses be prepared to act on information received and really listen to customers, not just collect data that remains unused. Someone must walk the talk.
Many businesses, like Bank of America, include a phrase in the signature line of employee emails: “My goal is for you to be highly satisfied. If at any time you are not, please feel free to contact me or my manager at (contact information). Have a wonderful day! ”
If so many organizations are so concerned with providing excellence in customer service, why does customer service seem to be such a rare commodity?
Leaders must decide what grade they want from their customers. And then must decide what needs to be done to obtain that grade. What do customers expect of your organization? What does meeting those expectations mean for my products, services, and people?
Interestingly, but not surprisingly, many companies overestimate their delivery of customer service and customer satisfaction, which are inextricably and understandably intertwined. In his book, What’s the Secret to Providing a World-Class Customer Experience, John R. DiJulius III notes that while 80% of companies surveyed reported providing superior customer service, only 8% of customers surveyed described their experience with those companies as superior.
Customers are driven by their needs and judge businesses based upon their perceptions. It’s not enough to think your organization is doing a good job, you must know by constantly monitoring the feedback of your customers.
Leonard L. Berry, Ph.D., Texas A & M University Professor of Marketing, defined ten domains of satisfaction, which are: quality, value, timeliness, efficiency, ease of access, environment, inter-departmental teamwork, front-line service behaviors, commitment to the customer, and innovation. You must monitor your domains of satisfaction and obtain feedback about what those domains mean to each functional area of the organization. How does the distribution process contribute to customer satisfaction? Are products innovative? How timely is our service?
The proof that customer service contributes to the bottom line is the economic difference between high service firms and low service firms. Research by the Strategic Planning Institute shows that high service firms average a net profit of 12% vs. 1% for low service firms. And, high service firms grow market share at a rate of 6%, while low service firms tend to lose market share by -2%. Enough said.
On the continuum of customer satisfaction, organizations can choose to be customer-hostile, -aware, -friendly, -focused, or truly customer-centric, where services and products are designed through customer eyes and metrics are built around customer service. When customers stop returning, someone in the organization needs to find out why. The beginning is leadership and soliciting customer feedback; the end is a great customer experience.
And, one single comment can make a difference to your business.