So, you would think customer service should be getting better. Consider, all the new technology and the service promises made by companies. Plus, the quality service revolution the lasted three decades. Companies spent billions of dollars.
- The number of people reporting customer problems went up from 32 percent in the 1976 study, to 45 percent in 2011, and then 50 percent now.
- The customer experience for the top 100 retailers has dropped.
- The American Customer Satisfaction Index was 74.2 in 1994. Today it is 73.2. A decrease nearly 30 years later.
- For more, See my post, The Death of Customer Service.
So, you would think customer service should be getting better. Consider, all of the new technology and the service promises made by companies. Plus, the quality service revolution the lasted three decades. Companies spent billions of dollars.
The Customer has the Power
In any one company there may be excellent improvement. Many customer experience professionals are trying hard to get better. Little progress has been made, in the perception of customers. Some experts say customers are smarter today, and their expectations are higher. At the same time research shows that they want it all–best price, best service, and best products. Even though most do not expect to get it. Therefore, the customer has the power today!
Here are three corporate scams that make it difficult for a company to impress their customers. While the word “scam” is harsh, companies need a wake-up call. But, just about any company can make dramatic strides in results with a few key changes.
The First Customer Experience Scam
Let us face it, most companies really are not committed to improving. You and I both know that as customers. The airlines are perfect examples, except for Southwest or JetBlue. Collectively the airline industry has cut services and added all kinds of fees. Since they are making nice profits, you would think they would add more services, right? They, like other organizations:
- Create conflicting priorities–A large multinational company was convinced by a big six accounting firm to invest millions in Just in Time Inventory. For that reason, other customer experience initiatives were minimized. At the same time, the company continued to lose sales and customers. They had to merge with a competitor to survive.
- Focus on short term profits–The bottom line seems to always trump making service or quality gains. Seems like the goal is to leave a customer angry to make a buck now. This is typified by a CEO I encountered whose #1 question is, “How much money have you made me today?”
- Establish corporate silos that inhibit collaboration–A large B2B company had four regions, and each did things their own way. They talked about great service and being “top dog”. But they would not cooperate because they were too competitive with one another.
- Block adequate resources--A service company’s CEO set a goal to be a customer experience leader. Yet, he never budgeted the resources to do it. His customer loyalty suffered which created high employee turnover.
- Do the Wall Street dance to look good–A $35B retailer declared for a decade in its annual report that customer service is a top three priority. Industry ratings proved otherwise.
The Second Customer Experience Scam
At an international conference for CX, the most popular discussion at breakout sessions is not surprising. We have the data but cannot change the results to improve. What do we do? Many of these companies had the ability to drill down in the numbers to the Nth degree. However, few moved the needle for increasing loyalty. While data is important it does not drive the customer experience.
Most companies spend big bucks to survey customers to get more information and customer intelligence. Yet, the data is not share or used to make positive changes. It is all a smoke screen. One client we came across had been surveying customers for seven years. No progress. We asked for an action plan to review, there was none. If you do not use the feedback, why solicit, and collect it?
Customers are now receiving surveys from everyone. Surveys have become irritating and a negative. Many places, like the restaurant I was at last night, ask you to fill out their questionnaire. With a smile the server added, “We want you completely satisfied.” Companies solicit perfect ratings. So, what good is tarnished feedback? Why not seek honest feedback and make a legitimate effort to improve?
Why not survey less, and save the wasted money? Use it to help improve processes and invest in people more. Also, survey quarterly, make positive changes and consistently implement them. Then, survey again.
The Third Customer Experience Scam
Data turns into plans–well, maybe. Plans today often include new CRM tools or other social interaction technology to interface mobile customers. Inevitably companies implement CX plans and action steps.mThe problem is who is an afterthought? The employee! The front-line employees are neglected and end up as the butt of the biggest scam. Research shows 85% of employees are disengaged. These employees are asked to deliver the best service but are confronted by:
- Ambiguous priorities and expectations
- Inadequate training or coaching
- Lack of support
- Antiquated systems or tools
- Little or no recognition
- Poor communication
- Lowest pay
Unfortunately, seldom are departments like marketing, accounting, sales, distribution, and IT included in a customer experience improvement process. Consequently, it is the sole job of customer service reps. This is the result of executive leadership’s lack of commitment. So, is it any wonder that employees become dissatisfied?
Therefore, for a company to reach the full CX potential, it must engage all departments and divisions. Every area impacts the external or internal customer. If accounting gets the invoices wrong, no amount of smiling will make up for it. When a company cannot fulfill product orders on time, your customers will be unhappy. So, it does not matter how many times you apologize. A website must be user friendly. Otherwise, it does not matter how good the products are.
Accordingly, too many companies have a narrow view of just what the customer experience is all about. Success requires “corporate cohesion” in all customer touchpoints. So, to achieve great service all departments must be part of the solution and effort. Finally, a superior customer experience demands excellent employee engagement.
3 Levels of Customer Experience
As a rule, there are three levels of customer experience that we all encounter. The first two the companies are stuck in cultures that reinforce the three customer experience scams.
Companies at this level do not care. They are rip-off artists. There was a car dealer that used this approach in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. His shenanigans eventually caught up with him, and he is in jail. Similarly, Bernie Madoff fit this category.
Most companies land here. [See the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s monthly reports.] They tend to do just enough to get by. They say they deliver “good” service. For example, Sears said and believed this. So, another name for adequate is mediocre. This is the most devious level.
Finally, adequate companies hold annual conferences and extol the importance of the customer experience. Many even have a Chief Customer Officer. Also, they conduct customer service training for the customer service department. In addition, operations managers see the customer survey reports. These companies are not fooling anyone. Their actions generate a lack of trust in leadership. Therefore, it is very disappointing and frustrating for employees.
These are the best of the best: Apple, Amazon, Disney, Zappos, Nordstrom, Starbucks, and Wegmans. In contrast, to their competition, they more than satisfy the customer . Their superior service is the result of continuous improvement. Also, they have one other ingredient. Delighting customers is part of their culture. It is not a program. Employees are highly valued. These companies deliver CX training to all employees. Customer Feedback leads to action plans and significant changes. Likewise, CX managers have the ear of top executives. Furthermore, lavish recognition awaits customer service heroes. Various teams work on key issues. In addition, CX results are tied into compensation and recognition. It is how they do business, not an added workload. For that reason, superior service is their value proposition. Therefore, they do not do a customer experiences scam, and reap a bottom-line payoff.
Pulling It All Together
In summary, to prevent a customer experience scam a company needs continual innovation through leadership engagement. This accelerates employee engagement. As a result, the customer engagement is brilliant. It takes hard-work and steadfast commitment. Hence, most companies and leaders do not buy it. The proof is in the pudding and in their results. Their customer experience scam is on them.
Early in my career, I worked for a corporation that owned six companies and where the President was 100% committed service excellence. I was VP of Customer Satisfaction and Training. He said, “If the numbers go up, you have a job. If they go down, you are out of here.” Yet, he gave me the support I needed. We were the worst in the beginning and ended up the best. We won numerous awards. Certainly, without his support it would not have worked. Sometimes you need a push to back you up when confronted with organizational obstacles, difficult managers, and budget challenges.
In conclusion, J.D. Power & Associates declares, “Delivering extraordinary customer experiences is becoming more and more important. We know from the data that customers will pay for it.”
Check out these Resources
Note: For award winning CX Consulting go here. RCI Consulting.
Also, do you need better employee engagement? Check out this complimentary eBook: How to Motivate-No-Inspire Employees.
In addition, lead the pack and avoid a customer experience scam? See this complimentary eBook, The 5 Cultural Habits of Customer Driven Companies.
Furthermore, check out our online RealTime Learning and Training.
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