Why “instantaneous” service may not be the best way to satisfy customers


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I was cruising around the web this morning looking at weather sites when I came across a website that not only allows you to see what the weather is in any given town, but it also gives you photographs of the local area and live WebCams. Simply by zooming on a map, I was able to pinpoint locations anywhere in the world, and discover what the weather was like on any given day. Not only does it give you the temperature and the weather outlook, it also has in-depth analysis on barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, moon phases, tide charts, and a host of other information too detailed to list here.

After my initial shock at the depth of information available in such an easy-to-use display, a thought occurred to me about how often we take this level of instantaneous information for granted, and how that translates into a customer satisfaction environment.

Certainly in this age of the internet and portable media we are becoming more and more accustomed to having information literally at our fingertips. This is a phenomenon that is affecting customer satisfaction indices in every industry. While the term “instant gratification” may be overstating it a bit, customers across all industries are becoming more and more accustomed to getting an answer when they want it. As a culture, we are going deeper into the information age into the core stream of what I like to call “insta-mation”: instant information, whenever we want it.

The responsible customer service professional needs to be able to take this principle and and translate it into a workable hypothesis from which to operate. I’ve come to a few conclusions on my own that perhaps you also may find useful.

Firstly, having the ability to provide instant information to your customers is a must; and secondly, “instant service” does not necessarily follow in kind with instant information. Let’s look at those two points little more closely.

There are various ways for you to provide instant information to your customers, whether it’s a website chat line or live phone answering service. People are expecting to be able to get answers to their questions 24/7. Availability is key, and the more available you can be, the better the chance that you will be successful in satisfying the need for your customers to be able to get the information they are looking for, and then get on with their lives.

As for instant service, it becomes a little more complicated. While certain urgent issues absolutely need to be resolved right away, I’m finding that most routine service actually accomplishes a higher level of satisfaction when it is completed in the customer’s time frame, and not the timeframe of the business. Sometimes customers just want to make sure you get their information, but they are not ready for you to act on it until later because they are going out of town, or they don’t have the availability due to their own work schedules. They just wanted to “let you know” about their concern which they are fine with as long as it can be rectified later.

At other times, a customer might have some health issues, or family emergencies that prevent them from completing a service call; however, they still have an expectation that you will remember to take care of their concern when they return.

We’re finding a higher success rate of satisfaction when we focus on permission-based, rather than metric-driven, service. This way, the customer is more in control of their experience, and they appreciate the level of attentiveness to their sensitivities.

By remaining available and providing resources for information-sharing at any time of day, and by performing service when it works better for the customer, you can create real opportunities for increasing satisfaction.

Just for fun…

“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all by yourself.” – Anon

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steve Martorano
Steve has been on the front lines with customers for over 25 years. He is currently Director of Customer Services for Polygon Northwest, a real estate developer in both the Seattle and Portland markets. Steve is also the creator of ThinkCustomerSatisfaction.com, an online resource designed to provide insights and training to customer professionals across many industries.


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