THE ACADEMY OF BUSINESS STRATEGY
CUSTOMER SATISFACTION BLOG
Hello, Can I help you?
Leland Jackson (CBS) MBA BS
How many times have you heard this when you called the customer service number provided to you in the instructions of your new software, your new desk, or your kids bicycle only to have that question followed by those lovely words, “Please listen carefully as some of our options have changed”? Of course that is followed by a black hole of numbers to press, words to enunciate, and total frustration on your part. You pound the 0 key in hopes of reaching a living, breathing, human being only to have the “voice” tell you that you have made an invalid selection please try again. You search the web site to try and find a ‘real’ telephone number so that you can let the vendor know how unhappy you are, but to no avail. So once again your frustration level hits new highs and your odds of ever buying anything from this vendor again diminish.
We live in a time where everyone is looking for a way to cut costs, to meet financial objectives, to minimize premiums due to the spiraling cost of healthcare. And without a doubt, the easiest and quickest solution is to slash headcount. So we look around the office and determine that we can automate Sally’s job since all she does is answer the phone and direct calls. There was a salesman in your office just last week letting you know that ‘everybody in the industry is doing it and saving all sorts of money’. I mean, we can immediately save $30-35K per year and once the software is paid for that asks, “How can I help you”, that salary, plus benefits cost, goes straight to the bottom line. So what’s the issue? The issue is that your customers have grown to love Sally and they know when they talk to her that their problems will be taken care of timely and efficiently. And on top of that, she knows their names, their kids names, and can actually have a real conversation with them.
Your customers will tolerate this shift to impersonal service for a period of time, and depending upon your field of service they may actually put up with it indefinitely. The issue is those words “put up with it”. They won’t be happy. They won’t be satisfied. They won’t be raving fans of yours. They will simply tolerate it. And then when the new service company in the field comes along and offers personal service with a real person to answer the phone they will consider, and quite possibly make, a change. But you saved $30-35K per year and met your financial objectives for the quarter so your bonus is on the way.
A Better Choice
In today’s fast paced world of outsourcing, cost cutting, and technological advances there is still a group of people that need to be taken into consideration as you make your decisions. That group of people is known as customers. You know, the ones who provide the revenue so that you can run your company. The ones who tell their peers how amazing you are and how you always take care of their issues timely and efficiently. The ones who with a simple internet post can either advance your company or put it into a tail spin. Ken Blanchard, in his book Raving Fans, points out that we have become so accustomed to poor service that when we receive mediocrity we think it’s great. If we receive great service we go absolutely crazy and we tell everybody we know. So if your customers love Sally and she’s the first point of contact with them then “saving” $30-35K per year could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars over the long haul. Whereas keeping Sally at that desk and either working a little harder to find some places to cut unnecessary costs or perhaps adding revenue to the top line will be a better alternative.
Competitive advantage is what it’s all about today. I get that and so do you. You have to stay financially healthy and at the same time have an infrastructure to support your customers. While we live in a world of technological advances it is often times refreshing to hear a friendly “hello” when I call for support and know that I’m talking to someone who will help me. I sat in a restaurant just the other day, it was lunch hour and the place was loud, and needed to cancel a reservation I’d made at a hotel that I’m a Platinum Member in their rewards program. I dialed the number, I enunciated my responses, but due to the background noise the ‘voice’ kept saying, “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand your response”. It would then ask me the same question I’d just answered and with each response that was ‘not understood’ my frustration level rose. It took me over fifteen minutes to get my reservation cancelled and not once was I given the option to talk to a person. It’s time to find another hotel and another rewards plan.
So before you make that snap decision that Sally is expendable think about all those customers, like me, who may love you but can’t stand hearing, “Please listen carefully as some of our options have changed”.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Leland Jackson (CBS) MBA BS is an approved Certified Business Specialist (CBS) with the Academy of Business Strategy and his specialist subject is customer satisfaction. He has achieved an MBA and BS from LeTourneau University. He has been employed as a CEO, President, General Manager and Consultant for various companies and has experience within the healthcare, insurance, banking and financial service industries. His clients or employers have included Digital Transcription Systems Inc, Paperless Claims Inc and Diebold Inc. He has geographical working experience in the United States of America, Canada and South Korea. He speaks English. His service skills incorporate relationship building, customer service, financial analysis and customer satisfaction.