Friday, July 24, 2009

Chapter 1/2

Still need convincing?

In the September 2008 issue of Sales & Marketing Management, consultant Scott Hornstein further discussed this issue of American corporations' cataclysmic problem with customer service. Hornstein wanted to see what real, live customers thought about customer service so he sent out a survey to regular folks who deal with a variety of companies and their brands. Hornstein asked:

1. Of your current experiences, does customer service today meet your expectations? Please respond on a scale from 1 to 10 (with 1 being "absolutely not" to 10 being "deliriously yes")?

Average score: 3.7 (almost 20% of the responses were 1s)

2. How would you rate large corporations' commitment to customer service (on the same 1 to 10 scale)?

Average score: 3.0 (40% of the responses were 1s)

3. In general, what are your expectations of your initial customer service interaction? What do you expect will happen (with 1 being "absolutely nothing" and 10 being "thoroughly delighted")?

Average response: 4.6 (Ah, a glimmer of hope, on their part.)

4. How important is customer service to you when you make a decision to purchase from a company (with 1 being "no difference" and 10 being "nothing is more important")?

Average response: 7.8 (over 30% of the responses were 10s)

Now, Hornstein admits that his sample was not random and that some could fault his methodology. But is anyone surprised with the results? You don't doubt the projectable quality of Mr. Hornstein's findings, do you?

Businesses face a terrible crisis right now and it is far more serious than the economic recession in which we find ourselves. There is a huge recession of customer confidence in businesses' ability to meet their service needs.

Do your own research. Not on your company (yet), but on other brands in the marketplace. People are fed up and they will do anything (including constantly switching brands) not to have to take it anymore. What I hope you also take away from this is that whether you sell products or perform a service, we are all in the service business! In fact, many businesses complain that they find themselves selling commodities where price is the sales-determining factor when great customer service could distinguish them to such an extent as to take them out of a commodities market.

One small ray of hope for the small business owner is that customers seem slightly more dissatisfied with how large corporations deliver customer service than they do with businesses in general. Hey, its a start.

There is a huge recession of customer confidence in businesses' ability to meet their service needs.

As a small business owner, you must recognize that the chances are pretty good that your company may not be delivering stellar customer service, either. In fact, it is rather probable that your company is not, if you just play the odds here. But you can find out for sure and that is what we will talk about soon.

Before we do that, be thinking about all that money you spend in advertising that brings customers to your door only to be mistreated by your organization's customer care because the advertising told them one thing and their customer experience told them another. Talk about a disconnect.

Thanks for reading. More to come!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Chapter 1: The Road Less Traveled When Marketing The Small Business

What's Wrong with Business?

Just for a minute, forget you are a small business owner or business person and think about how satisfied or dissatisfied you are with the majority of companies that you do business with.

What are you coming up with? It is not that much to write home about, is it? And that is a problem for every one of those organizations. You just don't like them that much.

Now, some of the people who are reading this right now may be thinking of organizations that are operated by other readers of this same blog. Scary, huh? Someone is really thinking about why organizations like yours just don't make them feel valued.

Hornstein Associates, a marketing firm in Connecticut, conducts a survey each year and rates how companies respond to inquiries to their Customer Service departments. From the response rate by the organizations solicited, the results can give us some idea of how these businesses (and business in general) are responding to stated inquiries by customers who ask a question of them.
At your next cocktail party, solicit stories about bad customer service: everyone has a nightmare.

It works really simply. Hornstein Associates sends an inquiry to the Customer Service departments of some of the largest and most successful organizations in the world: Financial Times' "World's Most Respected Companies" and to Fortune's "Most Admired Companies" with a question about their customer service. The goal is to see whether the organizations will respond within a 24-hour period, the expectation of most consumers when they contact a company's customer service department. The question is "What is your corporate policy regarding the turnaround time for emails addressed to customer service?" A simple question for an organization who makes customer service a true priority, right?

What Hornstein has found since 2002 is a shocking decline is customer service among organizations that most of the world thinks of as great organizations. The percentage of organizations that responded within a 24-hour period in 2002 was 63%. In 2003 it was 59% and in 2004, it plummeted to 37%. 2005 and 2006 rebounded somewhat and leveled at 42% for both years. Then in 2007, the number dropped to 33%. Last year, we hit an all-time low of 31%, just less than half of the response in 2002.

Is anyone surprised? I doubt it. We have become so accustomed to bad customer service that this sort of thing doesn't surprise us at all. In fact, at your next cocktail party, solicit stories about bad customer service: everyone has a nightmare.

So, what's to be done about how our organizations serve our customers? Something had better change, huh?

Thanks for reading. More to come.