Customer Service: what organizations do not seem to know

Nothing like a tight economy to have consumers try and get that little extra value for their money. And sure enough the customer service arms of most organizations do not know their customer FAQ's or have not been able to prepare their front-line employees to deal with a customer's typical problem. As a result we have ten tips from CNN on" my secret to super customer service." These ten secrets provide huge clues to leaders in organizations to review exactly what is happening on the front-line:

  1. It never hurts to ask  when a deal is only for new customers.This example is from a strange industry practice, in several industries, of giving sweet deals to new customers and cutting out old- loyal customers. This despite the huge amount of research on customer relationships and customer life time value.
  2. Shift blame away from customer rep has lots to do with customer service organizations blaming the messenger. The front-line employee needs to have the full support of management so that what feedback they give is seen as market feedback and not a failing of the rep.
  3. Go to the CEO  works but obviously the CEO's organization is not working!
  4. Sharing constructive criticism also works but only with great companies who are ready to listen anyway. The guitar company is not mentioned by name in this story but if you are in the market for a guitar, you should consider them.
  5. Staying calm and taking notes  is great consumer advise because reps are supposed to keep notes and frequently deal with irate customers and probably feel happy when someone treats them decently.
  6. Propose your own solution works again with better customer service organizations where the front-line employee is authorized to solve the problem in the quickest manner possible. American Airlines is the good example here.
  7. Be persistent when you are not getting the service and they won't let you go. Here the CEO  approach did not work and this was satellite TV and mentioning the FCC helped resolve things. If a customer calls more than twice on the same matter it's time for the senior managers to call back.
  8. Be kind to the customer service rep. A variation of number 5 without really expecting much but being pleasantly surprised.
  9. Loyalty programs  seemed to help the customer in this story. Obviously they are not equally effective within an industry or across industries. Tying up loyalty programs to the point #1 problem of giving good deals to only new customers might be something to think about.
  10. Reasonable and polite customers seem to do better and sort of reflects #2, #5 and # 8 above.

Many organizations relegate customer service away from mainstream marketing and sales and that is probably the big reason why customers need to think of new ways to just get the value they are paying for. At the operational level given that four out of the ten points suggest politeness as a customer side strategy – organizations need to keep their customer reps responses to angry customers in context and not as a reflection of the reps performance.  The other big take-way for organizations is that treat loyal customers better– for they are the ones that are paying your bills.

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