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Frederique

I think we are seeing a little bit of both: consumer expectations continue to grow and customer service seems to be on the decline. Could the off-shoring of call-centers have something to do with this? (i.e. apparent culture clash on the telephone)

Companies who truly want to beat out the competition will need to find new ways (not only based on price) to differentiate themselves and more personalized customer service is a way to do just that. Some companies are already there (Lands' End is one example off the top of my head).

GrahamHill

Don

A great post to start your short tenure of the Marketing Consortium top spot.

Is customer service relative?

If we take customer satisfaction as a proxy for customer service, then it is pretty obvious that satisfaction is a relative measure, not an absolute one. The three drivers of customer satisfaction - expectations, perceived quality and perceived value - are all subjective and are heavily influenced by other service experiences. Thus, companies need to measure & monitor their service delivery in comparison with their competitors and with other standard setters, and manage it into the upper-end of the zone of tolerance.

Is service getting worse?

The ACSI survey suggests that satisfaction is increasing, rather than decreasing. It's current score across all industries is 74.4, the highest score since 2004. However, this hides a lot of variation in individual industries, not all of whom have increased satisfaction. Interestingly, although the product quality component of customer satisfaction has slightly decreased over the last 10 years, the service quality component has increased. This further suggests that customer service has improved in general.

We are always going to have a problem with getting marketers to tell the truth and with disappointment in customers who spot the difference, but all in all, I believe the news is generally positive.

Graham Hill

Don Peppers

Graham: Excellent points, but I still think the premise that "everyone knows" customer service has deteriorated may be something worth really digging in to.

Of the three elements of customer satisfaction you mention, the strongest is expectations. Of course, expectations are based on experience with the same product in the past as well as experience with other products or brands. To paraphrase Warren Buffet, the secret to good customer relationships is the same as the secret to a good marriage: low expectations.

And while the ACSI (American Customer Satisfaction Index) scoring system makes good reading, at http://www.theacsi.org/second_quarter.htm,
what I noticed in the audience, when the questioner stated his premise, were a lot of nodding heads and assenting voices.

So, even though actual customer satisfaction numbers may not have changed much (a microscopic improvement, if anything), this just proves my point: customer satisfaction is NOT going downhill, actually, but our expectations of business are increasing.

GrahamHill

Don

I don't buy your analysis.

Most people who work in satisfaction recognise that the models used to measure it are very poor approximations of reality. Indeed, there are a number of competing models in wide use and constant suggestions for their improvement.

They also recognise that most of the factors that influence satisfaction also influence each other in varying degrees. It is thus difficult to separate the individual measures, including expectations, from the other factors and from overall satisfaction score.

What Warren Buffet doesn't recognise in his trite comment is that expectations are self adjusting through a process of Bayesian updating. You can get away with low expectations once, but if you over-deliver and delight the customer in the process, then expectations will be ratchetted up in the process. As will perceptions of quality (things worked out better than expected) and value (what great value for money).

Perhaps the answer to the conundrum about perceptions of deteriorating customer service whilst overall customer satisfaction is rising lies elsewhere: in herd behaviour that social scientists have long known about, in cognitive aversion to losses which psychologists have long known about, or even a bad experience that some of the delegates felt (but didn't necessarily think about) on the way to the conference. Who knows?

Life is complicated.

Graham Hill


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Wow, a great post to start your short tenure of the marketing consortium top spot.

Ben Cliff

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