The Cash & Culture Paradox


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“You get what you pay for”, or so the saying goes. But does more always mean better? As in paying more means a better product, better service, better overall experience?

I’ve been seeing an awful lot lately in tweets, blogs, infographics and even survey research that suggest consumers are willing to pay more for better service or a better overall experience. Well, here’s my opinion on that. Every company that has crappy customer satisfaction, NPS or other experience-type metrics just got a free pass to raise prices in the name of superior customer experience. “Yes, we stink. But if you pay more, we’ll blow your socks off.” Hogwash.

How then do you explain the customer experience and trust ratings of companies like Costco and Southwest Airlines?

What I think is that customers are so far down at the end of their rope, that their acquiescence to such a trade off is a desperate cry of those that have been simply worn out. Companies like Costco and Southwest consistently demonstrate that you don’t have to pay more to get more.

The same applies internally when looking at employees that are responsible for execution of the customer experience – especially those on the front line in day to day customer facing roles.

I was at an Argyle conference on customer experience a couple of weeks ago in Chicago where this topic generating a lot of dialog.

The notion of the “super agent” was batted about for quite a while. As the execution of the customer experience at the front lines becomes more complex, spanning an ever-growing range of channels, the need to raise the skill level of those delivering the service is real. Now, as someone who runs a customer experience BPO, I was actually happy to hear general agreement that up-skilling customer service agents would require shifting from continuous cost cutting to making real investments in human capital and other components of the service deliver model. “How can you expect someone making ten bucks an hour to deliver superior service?” Admirable. But, after thinking about it now for a couple of weeks, I came to settle on the same word. Hogwash.

So, I did some poking around to see if I could get a sense of what the going rate is for customer service representatives that deliver exceptional service and customer experience.

At Zappos, the average customer service agent pay is $23,000 per year according to this presentation. And, other data confirms that Zappos pays its reps about 3% below industry averages. We’re all acutely aware of Zappo’s commitment to and reputation for customer service.

Chik-fil-A is turning the fast food industry on its head. Not with superior cuisine, but by creating an in-store experience rivaled by none. So, what can you expect to rake in as an associate manager in a store? $27,500 a year according this survey updated just last week.

Are there examples to counter my argument? Of course. Ritz Carlton pays a heck of a lot more than Motel 6. But the point is, that the cause and effect between compensation and service delivery does not hold water.

What does matter? Culture. Finding, hiring, training and caring about employees that care about delivering a superior experience. This is the obvious common denominator that runs through all customer-centric companies. They put employees first. They are passionate about a service culture. And, that translates to the experience customers receive.

Money can’t buy you love. It can’t buy you happiness. And, it most certainly does not insure happy customers.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Barry Dalton
Telerx Marketing
Consumed by the pursuit of delightful service. Into all things customer loyalty and technology. My current mission is developing new service channels and the vision of the contact center of the future.


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