You may think that customer service is improving, but it’s a good bet that most of your customers would disagree. They are out there every day dealing with companies that consistently underperform and disappoint. Sure, there are many really good service providers, but for the most part the customer service bar is quite low.
That screams opportunity for companies that want to stand out from the underperforming crowd. Customers crave attention and even tolerable service. Their expectations are low and generally limited to the functional aspects of service. If companies could only do what they said they would, on time and with a fair degree of accuracy, customers would be satisfied. But, in many cases they are not even getting that.
Customers tell me these days that they are impressed when someone live actually answers the phone, when the guys who are delivering the fridge arrive when they said they would, and when their suitcases tumble onto the luggage carousel, having survived the connection in Chicago. They have become so accustomed to poor service that their expectations have slipped in recent years.
Customers’ expectations — their “wouldn’t it be nice ifs” — are not that high at the moment. These expectations are also typically limited to what I refer to as the functional aspects of service; they would like you to do what you said you would, on time, and with no hassle. From some service providers (and airlines are probably at the top of that list) they aren’t really expecting even that these days, but that’s what they’d like.
Of course, some companies have stepped up to the plate and consistently perform to a very high standard — long-distance couriers like FedEx and UPS come to mind, as do many of the major hotel chains — thereby raising the bar for the rest of us. But, generally, customers are pleasantly surprised when the most basic aspects of service delivery go right.
So, what that really creates is an opportunity staring companies in the face; an opportunity to stand out from the crowd by delivering a level of service that the customer simply isn’t expecting. That requires a customer service strategy that is driven by customer insight and informed by input from front-line employees. They are the best judges of what works and what doesn’t when it comes to dealing with your customers.