2012 Global Customer Service Barometer

I am not much for surveys these days, but I ran across the 2012 Global Customer Service Barometer prepared for American Express by Echo.  The best way to find out how you are performing is to actually know before the customer hangs up.  Because, once the call is over the opportunity has passed to provide service – one reason I am not a fan of customer satisfaction surveys (another is that surveys rarely ask questions “that matter” to customers).

Some things that stood out for me in the survey:

  • Customers are not seeing much change in customer service.
  • Businesses are more likely to miss your expectations than exceed them.
  • Customers will pay more for customer service.
  • Consumers expect excellent customer service and don’t expect to pay more for it.
  • Consumers are likely to tell 8 or more people about their excellent service.
  • Consumers are likely to tell 11 or more people about their poor experience.
  • Consumers prefer to speak to real person either by phone or face-to-face.

As anyone can see from the survey, consumers want good service.  Just so few deliver it.  Why is this?

Many organizations view customer service as a zero-sum game, where the belief is that good service costs more.  This is not true, great customer service costs less.

This also means if customers want to talk to a real person, it will be less expensive than that expensive IVR and voice system you just bought to save money.  I have often found these technologies entrap the customer and workers – increasing costs.

There are some numbers more nebulous than others.  For instance, knowing how many customers say good and bad things is a very difficult number to know for your service.  However, failure demand  is something to sink your teeth into.  When customers place demands on your customer service people that are failures it is very expensive.  Worse, is the amount of failure demand hitting contact centers or other service workers.  It is typically between 25 and 75%.  That is the bad news, the good news is that in most service organizations it can be designed out.

A better service design also requires better management thinking about how to manage the work.  Activity measures like AHT and service levels are the wrong measures.  They play to the zero-sum game, failure demand measurement is a whole different game.  To deliver better service, we have to reduce failure demand that reduces costs too.

There are other measures that are important too.  These may be end-to-end measures derived from “what matters” to customers.  These require others outside the customer service arena to support making a design that meets the demands of customers.

No matter what the survey says, it can not replace getting knowledge about that what and why of current performance of your organization.  Learning about customer purpose, types of demand (value/failure) and the flow of the work will help you understand about the assumptions associated with design and management of work.

Come hear me speak at the CAST conference in San Jose, California!  Re-Thinking Management . . . Re-Thinking . . . IT!

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the The 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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