Thursday, 5 July 2012

Danger: Great Expectations Ahead!

by Tony Vidler.

Nearly everyone agrees that good customer service is good for business.  What is "good customer service" though?

It can be made up of a lot of things, but let's focus on one simple attribute of customer service - time.

Speed is of the essence to consumers.  Speed IS service.

This is a simple concept, but it creates difficult performance targets. 

Some quick statistics:
  • over 80% of customers want the phone answered within 4 rings.
  • over 80% of customers want the phone answered by an actual human.
  • over 65% want the person answering the phone to be able to deal with the problem.
  • over 65% are dissatisfied if they are transferred and have to wait more than 30 seconds to talk to the next human.
It is important to bear in mind that these are desired service levels from most consumers across a range of industries, which is not the same as "adequate" service levels for any particular industry or business.  Which of these two levels of service you provide depends on your overall value proposition to consumers - and not all business models depend upon excellent service.  If one is in the business of providing lowest cost goods or services, there is an inherent consumer expectation that service levels will be compromised.  There is still an expectation that service must be adequate, but there is little more expectation than that.

If at the other extreme you are looking to command premium pricing in your business model, then there is a consumer expectation of excellent service.  Excellent becomes the new "adequate" benchmark, and nothing less than excellent will do. If you are promising to bend over backwards for your customers, you had better be able to as that will be their expectation of minimum standards from the outset.

There are many variables that can go into the overall service offer of course, but in virtually every type of service offer in the professional services firm, speed plays a part in the consumer perception of quality.  This is especially true with accessible internet at broadband speeds now being available on people's mobile phones.  The consumers perception of speed has changed...

Think about this:  15 years ago we were delighted if a computer worked.  5 years ago we were delighted if the computer and the line connection worked long enough for us to finish booking a hotel room.  Now over half of consumers are dissatisfied if a web page takes 3 seconds to load. What is their expectation of speed in a years time?

So what is your speed promise?  What is the "adequate" level of service that your consumers expect?

To determine how you might create superior service, and a superior value proposition, you need to know where the minimum performance benchmark is.  

Be aware though: there are great expectations ahead.  The consumers' perception of speed is changing faster perhaps than we can change speed of service.  Are you promising excellence, or acceptable and adequate standards in this area of your customer service proposition?

Whatever the level of service is that you promise, be sure to include a reliable performance level for speed of response.  It matters to your customers.

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