The numeral 1 might be a small figure, but just place the % sign after the number 1 and the whole scenario changes. The fact is that 1% of anything can be a lot, depending on what we are talking about. A 2016 report by the Oxford, UK-based, confederation of charitable organisations Oxfam states that the wealth of the richest 1% of the world is equal to all the combined wealth of the other 99%. That’s a staggering 1%, if you ask me. It clearly indicates the growing yawning gap between the rich and poor.
Interestingly, there is something else the % sign can do to the number 1. It can sometimes make a portion become so small that it is almost infinitesimal. Sometimes, this is good news. For instance, if the discussion is about an incurable deadly disease and you read somewhere that only 1% of the entire global population suffers from it, the situation is then not too disturbing—at least, not for you. But if the discussion is on something more positive, then you realise that 1% is not good enough at all. For instance, it is not good enough that just 1% of the entire global population has more than all the rest of us.
An online study in 2011 by customer relationship management software provider, RightNow Technologies Inc. (now Oracle RightNow), and conducted by New York-based market research company Harris Insights & Analytics – titled the 2011 Customer Experience Impact (CEI) Report – made this quite startling discovery: Only 1% of respondents felt that their expectations of good customers service are always met. This is one of those times when the 1% is really a small figure.
It must be stated that the key word in this very finding is the word ‘always’. This is a very important statistic, because in effect it means that only a minute 1% of customers can boldly claim that they receive great or excellent customer service. Why? Because by its very definition, great customer service is great only because it always happens.
On several platforms I have been asked my personal definition of what Excellent Customer Service is, and my response has always been this: “Consistent feats of volition which constantly exceed customer expectations”. No matter how excellent a service is, if it does not happen always then one cannot call it great. When the service is on one day and off the next, one cannot call it great. It is that simple.
There are a number of reasons why it is important that great customer services should be an ‘always’ affair. On and off service can be quite frustrating, since the customer does not know what to expect anytime he/she comes into contact with the organisation.
Assume a restaurant opens in your neighbourhood and you visit there one day and receive a certain level of service. You go there the next time and you receive another level of service. You visit there a third time and, once again, you receive a totally different kind of service. Chances are, the next time you decide to visit them you might be very apprehensive. You simply will not know what to expect. That kind of confusion is not what customers want.
It is common knowledge that customer service is about expectations-management. Customers always come into the interaction with an expectations of what they will receive. It is only when those expectations are met and exceeded that one can confidently say that great customer service has been delivered. When those expectations are not met, the customer walks away dissatisfied.
On and off customer service means that the customer will not have a standard to expect, because the service could be anything at all. This situation can be a complete turn-off for customers.
Another thing about having service that is always great is that it builds a lot of trust in customers. When the service is constantly and consistently fantastic, customers can stick their reputations on the organisation to always deliver on its promise. Going back to the restaurant example, a customer can confidently tell somebody about the restaurant’s service without being disappointed. One result of this is that great organisations are able to form very strong bonds with their customers.
We all know about the importance of word of mouth advertising in getting the message of a brand out onto the market. When customers go out of their way to say nice things about a service or product, the potential of success for that product becomes very high. However, if the service is not always great, how would anyone say anything good about it? Customers might stay away from telling others about the brand because they might end up being embarrassed—and no customer wants that.
It is true that organisations that are able to offer great service on an always basis are able to charge more for their offering than the average business. That is one advantage of meeting the expectations of customers always. Time and time again, it has been proven that customers who enjoy the always kind of great customer service are willing to pay more. Customers do not mind having to spend a little more for great service, especially when they know they will get it always.
Customer service must also always be great across all platforms or points of service of the company. Customer service is great if it is as great on the telephone as it is in person. Customer service must be excellent online as it must be even in writing. When customers know that wherever they encounter the brand they are sure to receive great service, they always have an assurance of the brand. That is what great customer service offers.
As is evident in this on-going discussion the bar is set very high when it comes to great or excellent customer service. Great customer service is no child’s-play. No one said it was going to be easy. If it were easy, we would not have all those stories and complaints about poor customer relations. If it were easy, the statistics would be 99% of customers saying that their expectations are always met—instead of only 1%.
Meeting customer expectations always is akin to writing a particular exam every day wherein you are expected to score 100% every single time. This is indeed no mean feat to achieve, but that is what great organisations do on a constant and consistent basis. They rise up to the challenge always, and by so doing, they establish strong positive brands that reign for a long time in the market.
One of the reasons organisations find it so difficult to always provide great customer service is because of the individual characteristics, temperaments and attitudes of those charged with serving customers. Because we are not all the same, it is almost impossible for organisations to perfectly standardise the level of service. If people were robots, it would have been far easier. All that would be needed is to programme those cyborgs to deliver a certain level of service.
But this is not so with the reality organisations are faced with. Humans are as different as their fingerprints, and therefore we don’t all talk the same way or even smile the same way. The best any organisation can do (which the best organisations consistently do) is to put standards in place, hire the right people for customer-facing roles, and consistently train employees according to those standards.
If there is one thing these brands do to always stay on top of the customer service game, it is that they make it a point to always pay attention to detail. These businesses are much disciplined when it comes to policing the system. These organisations have a very clearly-defined service blueprint and so know everything their customers go through before receiving service. They have their finger on the pulse and so know what to do at the appropriate time.
It must be clearly stated at this juncture that there is no perfect organisation anywhere. Things that can go awry find a way of doing so. But when they do, organisations that have always provided great customer service always have a way of getting out of the situation smelling like roses. By paying attention to every detail of the customer’s journey, they are able to formulate policies that kick into motion in the very rare cases when things go wrong.
This discussion has me thinking that the quality of service we have mostly been experiencing with businesses in this country is below great service. How many businesses have we encountered that we can confidently say are always on point with the quality of their service?
It is true that the RightNow research was for the US market. However, I really do not believe that the figures would be any different from what we have in this part of the world. Ours might even be lower than the 1%.
I must however say that there are businesses in this country that are doing very well when it comes to the quality of service they offer; but are they really doing great? I very much doubt that; maybe average, or just good – but not great. ‘Great’ might be the reserve of only 1%.