Why Wowing Customers (Alone) Isn’t Enough

August 26th, 2010   •   4 comments   •   Author: Walter Lim   

Courtesy of sayitcommunity.com

Lately, I’ve been listening to Harvard Business Review’s excellent Idea Cast during my commute, and have been inspired by some of its ideas. The latest on “Why Delighting Your Customers is Overrated” was quite a revelation.

Presenting findings from a study of some 75,000 people by Matthew Dixon, managing director of the Corporate Executive Board’s Sales and Service Practice, it revealed the following findings:

– While customers may repeatedly visit a business after being impressed, this tends to be the exception rather than the norm.

– Most customer defections come about due to companies’ inability to provide “standard” customer service. Common examples are telcos keeping their subscribers waiting for hours, airlines losing their customer’s baggages, and restaurants failing to fulfill orders expediently.

– Contrary to popular belief, people don’t mind self-service – say on a company’s website or through a kiosk. The problem arises when they cannot find what they want, and that’s when they have to make that phonecall to a call centre.

– In fact, having to speak to a customer service agent on the phone is rated quite poorly as a way of solving service issues. This often gets exacerbated by telephone tag.

– Another myth about service is speed. Customers don’t necessarily want their problems to be solved in a short but curt manner if it doesn’t address the whole issue. There are also different categories of customer complainants, with some needing more touch, some needing to be heard, while others just requiring a quick fix.

When I consider my own experiences with service providers, the above facts do resonate rather soundly.

For example, how many times have I felt frustrated by having to wait for at least half an hour or longer when calling a telco’s service line? How many times have I vowed (not wowed!) never to return to a retail outlet with rude and inattentive staff? How many times have I wanted to strangle an event organiser who botched up basic facts (like failing to identify who the Guest Of Honour was)?

On the contrary, “WOW” experiences, while certainly leaving positive impressions (which I occasionally blog about), may not necessarily lead to increased patronage. Certain extraordinary service encounters – like having an immaculate restaurant waiter knowing that your 6 year old needs unbreakable child-sized cutlery, or a shop whose owner remembered the dietary preferences of your pet budgerigar – could lead to more frequent transactions. However, the point is that the failure to meet the basics are often more costly for organisations.

How should companies prioritise their time, energies and (often limited) resources then?

First, they should look at solving all of the “pain” points of their customers. Examine what the common complaints of customers are, and focus the organisation’s attention on resolving them. While the frills are important – especially for luxury oriented businesses – one mustn’t ignore getting the fundamentals right.

If resources are limited, these solutions could be offered through a DIY manner. A very simple example I know are the self-service check-out counters at hypermarts like Woolsworth in Melbourne, which has a staff or two ready on hand to help any struggling shopper.

Ensure too that all your staff are trained on product knowledge and problem solving. While upselling is a necessity for any company looking to widen its profit margin – and which company doesn’t – it is even more important for them to identify customer scenarios and resolve them.

Learn to also adapt to what your customers are telling you by reading their body language and vocal cues. If they appear to be in a hurry, you shouldn’t try to keep them hanging on the line. If however, they do want to talk at length, allow them the opportunity to air their grievances before you get the first word in.

Do you agree with the above ideas – that it is far more important to get the basics right? How will such strategies influence a company’s “branded service”?

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  1. posted on Aug 27, 2010 at 1:27 PM

    Grfeat reminder. Business is an in-depth relationship that far surpasses just the first impression.

  2. Anonymous
    posted on Aug 27, 2010 at 7:40 PM

    Great read- fully agree with you.

  3. Phillip
    posted on Nov 24, 2010 at 9:47 AM

    What a cool blog you have. I agree with you on how customer service have really become these days. There are good and there are bad. Every company must have their own way and own style on how to really take care of their customers and how to give them the best customer service. Other food chains actually has call center hotline just in case they have concerns like you do.

    Well anyways, thanks for the very informative post!

  4. posted on Jan 17, 2016 at 12:51 AM

    Thanks in favor of sharing such a good thought, piece of writing is
    good, thats why i have read it entirely

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