Walk Before You Run, But Run for Service


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I must admit I’ve been spoiled by working with so many amazing customer experience businesses.  Many of those companies, such as Starbucks and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company,  are simply sprinting ahead of the pack when it comes to making emotional connections with customers.   In fact after spending an extended period of time with Tony Hseih and his team at Zappos working on The Zappos Experience book, I am struck by how a knowledgable and empowered workforce can consistently innovate legendary “wow” experiences for customers.

At the same time, I also consult with businesses who are in the infancy of their customer experience journey and before they can even contemplate running toward goals around forging emotional connections with their customers they must walk back to the basics of pure transactional service.  Given the demands of the marketplace today, those companies have to develop a sense of urgency and make it a brisk walk around execution of service basics.

For a moment let’s all return to a basic truth of service.  If you are too busy to serve customer’s in a timely way, you must innovate or source your business to deliver optimum  service speed.  To illustrate the impact of making customers wait for service, let’s take a look at an enlightening infographic (see below) put together by All Things CRM.  Compiling a variety of data sources, All Things CRM found a number of interesting results.  To make my point I will highlight the following facts from their summary:

45% of customers initiated a contact by phone in the last year.

70% of callers were placed on hold with average hold times of approximately 1 minute.

94% of most marketing budgets are spent on getting customers to call and about 6% of those budgets are spent taking care of customers when they do call.

Customers are greater than 5 times more likely to stay on hold if they can listen to helpful information as opposed to silence.

Only 34% of customers who hang up while placed on hold end up calling your business back.

So here is the quick and dirty relevance for most companies – possibly even yours:

1)  Look at the proportion of money you are spending on brand promise versus brand service delivery.  Where possible drive execution and delivery as it brings you the best kind of customer – a referral.

2) Do everything possible to deliver service to your customers as quickly as your financial resources will allow.  Do the math on hiring ratios to revenue generated per employee.  Take the leap of faith that service pays in long-term dividends.

3) If customers must be placed on hold, are not served promptly upon arriving in your building, or are forced to wait for a response through your web-based platform – look for ways to honor the time by giving them value during the wait time.  These value offerings could be a “frequently asked questions” pop-up on your website, recorded resource information as opposed to silence during a phone hold, or an LCD flat screen behind the reception area offering helpful information during an in office service delay.

Since every situation is different, you will have to extrapolate this idea for your use.  Essentially, think about it this way – “how much money and effort am I spending trying to attract customers I am too under resourced to serve?”  Moreover, in those inevitable situations where customer’s must wait , you may want to ask yourself “what am I doing to make that wait time more useful and bearable for the customer?”

I’d love to hear your answers to my questions but I must first put you on hold because their is another IMPORTANT customer is on the line….

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.


  1. Wow! You hit me between the eyes on this one. I appreciate your practical insight and advice. My customer experience (once engaged) has been improving steadily. However, I’m guilty of overlooking the experience around the initial call. This has been immensely helpful. Thanks!

  2. Yes all our work to make the phone ring and it gets placed on hold, alas. Glad this post had value. Thanks for engaging the discussion.


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