The Resurrection or Annihilation of Better Service?
Remember in the movie I, Robot, where the droids are activated as a group, and they begin to overtake the human population? It is a frightening idea with a lot of action. You could think of customers beginning to behave like that. Customers have the power, and they are demanding better service.
Market changes are already overwhelming nearly all organizations faster than predicted by futurists. This is especially true in the move to digital commerce. We are already witnessing the thinning of the ranks in retail companies. Those weak in customer service continue to bite the dust.
Customer service of the past was planned to be mostly personal attention. Today it’s vastly becoming digital. The internet and the younger generation that is growing up with it has changed everything. The customer service that we know from the past is gone. Most companies are scrambling to find the ‘secret sauce’ to get a market edge. For example, nearly 9 of 10 millennials use search engines to find customer service answers. In addition, over half of them use social media to ask customer service questions. With technological improvements, the expectations for better service are higher.
Few Companies Walk the Talk
According to Forrester, 73% of companies name ‘improving customer service’ as their top priority. More research shows that only two out of ten companies have a top notch customer service culture. An Accenture study shows poor customer service costs companies $1.6 trillion a year. That’s nearly six times more than a decade ago. Over 54% of customers stopped doing business with the company because of poor service, up 5% from a year ago.
While the concept of resurrecting customer service is in vogue, it has not yet evolved into practice. One report showed that customer service is improving, but it included satisfied customers as part of their barometer for gain. This is folly. Frederick F. Reichheld’s company has well researched the fact that a ‘just satisfied’ customer is not a loyal business-building customer. Customer service is actually getting worse in most places. How many times a week do you get great service? Poor service? Need any more be said?
In 2014, my post The Death of Customer Service showed that companies do now and will continue to invest in technology over people. Today, customer service has been highly dehumanized in many organizations. Some studies predict that 80% or more of customer interactions in the near future will be without human interaction. However, customer service feedback indicates that 83% of customers still prefer dealing with a person rather than digital options to take care of specific service needs or concerns.
What Do Customers Want?
Bottom line, a truly customer-focused company is continually changes to get better service. They gain greater profits and growth as a result. ACSI research backs this up. The following companies continually show they know what customers want because they regularly adapt and change: Wegmans, Amazon, Wistia, JetBlue, Publix, Disney, Ritz Carlson, USAA, Nordstrom, Trader Joes, Zappos and Apple.
Here’s what research shows most customers want:
- Convenience is key! Make it easy to reach products or services anytime and anywhere, no confusion.
- Faster service: long waits are death.
- Helpful self-service options: they don’t want to be stuck in endless automation.
- Competent service personnel availability online or in person; make it easy.
- Positive and personalized engagement at each step of the service process online or in person. Incompetent people are unacceptable. Train and coach them!
- Quality products along with service and quality guarantees without the fine print. Junk not allowed!
- Competitive pricing, not necessarily the best price.
- Don’t over promise and under deliver. Companies and service personnel must deliver, period.
A Revolution for Better Service
Each step of a customer’s interaction with a company is crucial. Each has to be designed with the customer in mind, not necessarily what’s easy or convenient for the company. This is where many leaders fail. They don’t think like customers. Instead, they think like executives, accountants or IT personnel. All departments of an organization need to be included, not just operations, sales and service. Everyone is responsible. This takes revolutionary thinking. Most companies fail here as well. The obvious objective is to serve the external customer extremely well, and do the same for those who are helping customers. This means employee engagement is essential. This is another failure of most companies. The balance between digital and human touchpoints are crucial. Be technical–specific–but demonstrate empathy. The goal is to establish multiple channels for easy access and with people support readily available as needed. This all takes teamwork, creativity and initiatives that are constant in focusing on creating value and customer loyalty.
The Customers 2020 report says the customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator in the near future. Those organizations that adapt will survive and thrive. Consumer discontent is a sleeping giant. It will take only so much, and today its wrath goes viral in minutes. As more companies begin to ail painfully, customer service must be resurrected since it becomes more important than ever. It will happen only if company leaders decide to put their customer service effort on life support. This also means investing heavily in bringing it back to robust health. This requires a steadfast customer-centric vision, and an employee-focused culture. Without these two ingredients, companies are doomed to fail and face annihilation. In summary, listen to this, business leaders: nearly 9 of 10 customers will pay more for better service.
By the way, do you want to enhance your career by increasing the customer experience of your department or organization today? Download this complimentary eBook guide: The Customer has the Power.
And, do you want to enhance your leadership skills to drive customer-centered behaviors in employees? If so, check out this eBook, The Great Customer Experience Scam