Q: From reading your recent comments it sounds like you do not support the position that customer service needs to be improved. What is your real position?
Robert: It’s a good question because if you look at episodic communication (like tweets, short articles) you’ll never get to understand any person. In fact I think current customer service is absolutely horrid. I think as customers we should receive the customer service we can afford!
Q: Sorry, I’m not getting that.
Robert: As customers, and also for most customer service experts, we tend to forget that customer service isn’t a right, it’s a business function for the business. It has to fit in in such a way so the company remains viable financially, and that’s one reason why service is so bad. It costs. If it costs the companies, it’s going to cost us to have it, whether it’s in terms of paying extra for frills, or whether the costs are hidden in the product prices Hence, we get what we, as customers (and businesses) can afford. It’s the only perspective to make business and good customer service sustainable.
Q: You also seem to disagree with social media as a tool to both deliver service, and to force companies to deliver better service?
Robert: Absolutely. In both social media, and customer service, almost everything talked about PUBLICLY is based on a number of assumptions that in the end, are occasionally true, but mostly not. For example, there’s an assumption that if a company is perceived as having poor customer service it will severely affect its viability, profit, and revenue.
Q: And that’s wrong? It’s sensible that that be true.
Robert: Comcast is an example. It’s been consistently ranked in the worst 2-4 on surveys of customer service quality. However, if you look at the health of its business, well, the numbers are incredibly positive. How can that be. Walmart is another example. Always on the list of worst customer service companies. Doing well. Dell, oddly enough a company that has been reputed to have a great handle on using social media to communicate with customers, also often listed at the bottom. Doing well.
At some point, you can’t continue to filter out information to suit one’s own hopes. Millions of people every day go to stores and use services of companies they actually cannot stand, and that’s because their perceptions of customer service quality play little part in their decision making overall. I know. I know. That’s not common sense. But it’s true. How many companies do you deal with that just aren’t that great?
Q: Are you saying, then that the reasons service is so bad is that we put up with it as customers?
Robert: Actually, ya. That’s a part of it. We’re human. We don’t operate on a rational system created by customer service fanatics. We are busy. We look for many things besides how nice the counter person is, or even how the company reacts to a complaint. Often we go back. We swear we won’t. We tell people we won’t. Then back we go.
There’s more though. Companies know that even with social media, and all the noise it can generate, that the influence of virtual talk is far less than believed, as it relates to consumer BEHAVIOR. So why should they change. People come back. It’s good enough. And we all hate it.
Q: Is there an answer to improving customer service?
Robert: Maybe. I call this Win4 or Win(quad), which means that the only way we get better customer service is if the levels we settle on meet the needs of the customer, the individual employee, manager and company. You can add shareholders in but I include them in company. That’s the only way to sustain things. It s a systems approach.
In plain words. We need to stop wowing, loving, coddling and otherwise doing things with customers reserved for our families. We need to make the transactions between company and customer as transactions between human beings, equal, and with no servant relationship present. We need to stop the charade that customers try to get the most from companies and vice versa. Customers need to recognize and accept that making ridiculous demands that put companies in jeopordy are in fact unfair, and demeaning. Customer also need to have reasonable expectations, AND companies need to state clearly what they can and will do.
In other words. Focus on basics. Solve problems customers have related to service and products, and leave the hippy dippy stuff alone.
(Note: If you want to see a tongue in cheek Customer/Owner Bill of Rights go here: http://yfrog.com/5916rqfj