A recent study of U.K. insurance customers indicates the industry has fallen behind other nations in improving customer service. In a KPMG survey of 5000 users, U.K. customers responded with a significantly lower satisfaction level regarding customer service improvements over the past twelve months. Just 16 percent of respondents report improvement, a number that falls to 13 percent of life insurance customers. Comparatively, 39 percent of customers in China reported improvements in the past twelve months.
So what’s the difference? Why do some companies swim like Olympians while others struggle to keep their nose above water? Forbes interviewed Anne Morris, author of Uncommon Service: How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business, who asked: “Why is [good customer service] so uncommon in a world where customers value it so highly, employees want to deliver it, managers want to deliver it?”
Morris and her co-author Frances Frei delve into psychology with their answer, analyzing the balance between limited resources and excellence. They provide the example of healthcare, where providing quick appointments can only occur in a less prestigious environment. By market demand a respected, sought-after specialist will be booked up months in advance. Healthcare providers – and all businesses - must decide who they want to be and what market they want to serve.
For some leaders the psychology of success can also undermine customer satisfaction. “What’s the least we can do to shut this complainer down?” is a common attitude among call center managers; a stance filters down to agents and come across in conversations. I once worked as an agent at an events center, who decided to sell unlimited tickets to an attraction the public considered a special access venue. When crowding prevented attending from accessing the attraction they naturally complained and wanted a refund. Management’s answer was a weak public apology and “no refunds” statement, needless to say sales flagged the next year not only for the attraction but for the overall event.
Is money in the hand really more valuable than building long term customer respect? Consumers are savvy these days and happy to lay bare every strength and flaw of a company online. This new social-business paradigm calls for new strategies that value the time and money invested by consumers and are humble enough to speak the truth when mistakes are made. (Checkout Southwest Airlines answer to a trademark dispute: the Malice in Dallas arm wrestling match.) A new consumer-led relational model has taken over the glossy era of the Mad Men, ushering in a world that want companies to succeed, but on consumer’s terms.