Getting Practical about Customer Service

by Jeff Wiener on June 17, 2016

Customer-ServicesIn the telecom world (heck, in every service industry) company CEOs love to talk about customer service. Oh my goodness they like talking about it! Nary has a quarterly conference call gone by without some talking head assuring investors that customers come first, that customer service is at the heart of everything they do, and assuring everyone that consistent customer satisfaction is the top priority.

Why then do we continue to be inundated with stories of poor customer service? Now perhaps it’s that such stories offer more attractive clickbait than say, “Customer Satisfied with Telecom Service,” or maybe it’s because we’ve all had one or two bad experiences ourselves, so we happen to notice the negative ones more readily. Or perhaps it’s that company CEOs don’t want to admit what I’ve known for decades, that for many companies (particularly those that answer to shareholders) customer service isn’t the priority; it’s simply a means to an end…the end being the growth of profits.

And it’s for that reason that we’re seeing such a generational disconnect when it comes to customer service, as companies resist thinking about new service strategies out of fear that they’ll cost the company more. But as I’ve learned over the years, when profits come before service, the latter will always negatively influence the former.

During this past week we covered a story about customer satisfaction ratings of major American wireless carriers, and I’ll admit to my surprise, T-Mobile emerged as the top rated carrier when it came to satisfaction, despite the fact that it trailed in almost all major network performance related categories. I mean, on the face of it that seems completely counter-intuitive, that customers of a carrier that lags behind in network reach and reliability, out performs the leaders of all such traditional performance metrics. But T-Mobile has done one thing that sets it apart; it has put service before profits.

But as I said, far too often CEOs are more concerned about the bottom line than they are about the customers themselves, evidenced again by the overall industry concern regarding churn.

You might think that concern about churn, customer turnover, would mean at its core that companies are concerned about customer retention and satisfaction, yet despite all the talk in that regard, inefficient, irrelevant legacy customer services processes speak to the opposite, that companies have little time to really consider what makes customers happy.

But often times companies avoid overhauling ineffective legacy processes because of the fear that it will cost them money. Spoiler alert: It will. Getting customer service right is an investment, but while it might reduce your revenue stream in the short term when compared to more cutthroat competitors, what I’ve found is when you truly focus on customer service you’ll always have the resources to grow and prosper, and you’ll have satisfied, loyal customers along with it.

So what’s the best way to begin thinking practically about improving your company’s customer service? Start to think like a customer. One of the most effective exercises I’ve ever done was approaching my own company as a customer, viewing our customer service processes through outside eyes, and thinking to myself what I would want out of a customer service experience. I was amazed at just how quickly the inefficiencies came to light, and really just how easy it was to fix them.

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