John DiJulius | Customer Experience Blog

The State of Service

Is your company part of the customer service crisis or customer service revolution?

There’s only one boss, the customer, and he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.

—Sam Walton

The Customer Service Crisis

The CEO of a large company, where I had been consulting for a while, told me, “John, you will never starve. You will always be busy with customer service consulting.” I was obviously elated, thinking he was happy with my services. Just as I was about to thank him, he continued, “because customer service is just so bad in America today.” Well, that was a let-down. During the past five years, we have seen more than enough corporate cost-cutting, stock market blues, layoffs, and outsourcing of services to the lowest bidder. As a result, customer service is at such an all-time low that if customer service is not horrible, consumers are relieved!

How bad is customer service today? Well consider this, a few years ago the airline industry was fighting a proposed “Flier Bill of Rights,” which would punish airlines for stranding passengers on planes without adequate food, water, or sanitation. How unreasonable is that? To expect not to be stuck on a runway for more than three hours, without food, water, and proper waste removal.

People are realizing the cheaper they go, the more it costs them

Return on Hassle

Customers are savvy today, and they realize that poor customer service can be costly when you factor in the return on hassle (ROH)—the additional time it takes to return something—to call customer service three times, to fume on the phone waiting in queue, hoping to get an answer or a resolution, while experiencing added stress related to unnecessary issues. Customers are realizing it is cheaper to pay more for something and have it be done right the first time, rather than patronize businesses with poor customer service. Thus, companies cannot always fall back on, “We are the lowest price, therefore good service should not be expected.”

The Bar Has Been Set

Customer’s expectations of service are so low that today businesses have a truly fantastic opportunity to gain a superior competitive advantage. Whatever your business—retail, hospitality, business-to-business—it has never been easier to exceed the customer’s expectation by delivering a memorable experience. The few companies that have realized this and make service their value proposition are seeing the return on investment (ROI).

Consumers and businesses will pay a premium when they find companies that put an emphasis on creating relationships. Organizations that deliver world-class service create loyalty and build a bank account of emotional capital with their customers. World-class organizations are less affected by third-party conditions, such as escalating gasoline prices, mass mortgage foreclosures, real estate crashing, a volatile stock market, what the Fed does the with the interest rate, or global events, than companies that do not differentiate themselves by customer service.

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