The Easy Way to Customer Service Excellence


Share on LinkedIn

Can you ask for more?  In a timely single issue of the Harvard Business Review, you have two seemingly divergent messages about customer experience design and what customer service really entails.  The titles of the two articles are as follows:

“Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers” and

“Zappos’s CEO going to Extremes for Customers”

The authors of the first article Matthew Dixon, Karen Freeman, and Nicholas Toman, essentially assert:

“Conventional wisdom holds that to increase loyalty, companies must ‘delight’ customers by exceeding service expectations. A large scale study of contact-center and self-service interactions, however, finds that what customers really want (but rarely get) is just a satisfactory solution to their service issue.”

The second article by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos (the focus of my next book entitled The Zappos Experience) suggests that service excellence comes down to a dedicated commitment to service values such as “deliver wow through service.”

So which is is “to WOW or not to WOW?”

A closer examination of these articles results in a clear understanding that WOW does not mean teaching your staff to do heroic things for customers, it simply involves helping them be resourceful enough to “get it right” or “make it right.”  In a world where so many service providers prefer to be fast but wrong, or inflexible but consistent the wisdom of these two Harvard Business Review articles is clear. Make your customer’s life easier.

Since many future installments will focus on Zappos, particularly as my book release nears, let me focus on the genius of the  “Stop Trying to Delight your Customers” article.

Granted the research for that article involved 75,000 customers who had interacted with call-centers or self-service portals like on-line chat, email, or voice mail prompts, the findings of the study are quite illustrative around the 3 key questions the researchers addressed:

1) How important is customer service to loyalty?

2) Which customer service activities increase loyalty, and which don’t? and

3) Can companies increase loyalty without raising their customer service operating costs?

In a nutshell, the answers from the research are as follows:

  • Delighting customers doesn’t build loyalty,
  • Reducing your customer’s effort to get their problem solved does make them more loyal, and
  • Acting to reduce your customer’s effort can reduce service costs.

To save your customer unneeded effort, Dixon, Freeman, and Toman suggest that you:

  • Don’t just resolve the current issue but also head off the next,
  • Equip customer service professionals to handle the emotional side of customer interaction,
  • Minimize channel switching by increasing self-service “stickiness.’”  For example, make changes on your website so the customer don’t feel that the only way to really get served is through a call to your call-center,
  • Use feedback from disgruntled or struggling customers to reduce customer effort, and
  • Empower (and incentivize) the front line to deliver a low-effort experience.

If that isn’t enough to think about this week, let me throw out a way of measuring customer effort through a simple tool called the CES or Customer Effort Score.  The CES is a single question to ask your customers:

“How much effort did you personally have to put forth to handle your request?”

Respondents can choose from 1 (very low effort) to 5 (very high effort).

In my next post, I will compare the power of the CES to the more commonly used metrics of customer satisfaction (CSAT) and customer engagement (Net promoter score or NPS).

For now please suffice it to say (albeit in an unintended rhyming fashion) – “making it easy” and “getting it right“ essentially are equivalent to “customer loyalty” and “delight.”

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Michelli, Ph.D.
Joseph Michelli, Ph.D., an organizational consultant and the chief experience officer of The Michelli Experience, authored The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and the best-selling The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here