Customer Service and a “Need For Speed”


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Remember the Tom Cruise quote from Top Gun. “I have a need for speed”. Well businesses need to embrace that same concept when designing their customer service strategy.

We all have seen “Customer Service” as a big buzzword used in marketing strategies by companies. We see claims about their focus of customer service being a priority, or how they treat every customer with great care but when you read customer service surveys one of the biggest things lacking for customers is the speed of response.

I worked for many years in the restaurant industry. This was an excellent training ground for what was or was not great customer service. One of the best lessons I received from one of my mentors was that “Time gets distorted in the customer’s mind”.

What did he mean by distorted? Let’s think about this situation.

You enter a restaurant, you’re seated at a table and no one comes by for two minutes. How long does it feel like? 10 minutes? More?

Now let’s say someone stops by as soon as you are seated and says they will be with you in a moment. How does time feel now? I would wager that you could sit for 10 minutes and not even worry. It all comes down to speed of response.

Why is speed to address a customer so important?

Today we as a people are so speed oriented because of the access we have to information. Our patience level for anything that takes time is fleeting and frustrating. Remember the last time your web browser took an extra few seconds to load?

Speed to acknowledge a customer also allows them to gain trust in your company for future interactions. If you are not prompt initially or in your actions, then doubt will creep into the customer’s mind about your business overall.

I recently stayed at an Embassy Suites for vacation and they forgot to pick up room service trays from the previous night. I mentioned it to the front desk and they said they would send someone right up to retrieve them. I returned to my room an hour later and the trays were still there. This stuck out in my mind that their service level may not be matching what their marketing says.

More importantly for this discussion, what this also did was it caused me to think of other areas where service was slipping during my stay. I was reminded when the rooms weren’t serviced till late in the day, or when the waiter took too long to bring food etc.

The point is I may have seen these other things but they did not matter until the company’s response time to my request was slow which then made me reexamine other issues I saw.

If your company does not respond promptly then your customers could begin to think the following about your business:

  • They are not interested in my business
  • They are hiding other flaws
  • Maybe they are not really paying attention to my account

If speed is of the essence, what can we do to hold ourselves accountable?

  • Mystery shop your own company. Submit forms to see how long it takes to get a response.
  • Have someone you trust call your company with questions and see what response time is.
  • Manage expectations. Be prompt to answer and then set real expectations of time for completion and then execute.

If you focus on making sure your response time is quick and then deliver an effective resolution to questions and concerns, you will distance yourself from your competition. Remember, your customer service strategy has a “Need for Speed”.


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