Customer Satisfaction: Norm vs. Anomaly

Written by Larry Fehd, CEO & Founder / HPS

Customer satisfaction, whether provided inside or outside the organization, is a key indicator of important organizational performance and is often a predictor of future business success. Customers are essentially volunteers and in most cases have alternative options in terms of product or service selections. Customers also have a great deal more power than some business owners may fully recognize. While customers are powerless over many things, they do have power when making a decision whether to continue doing business with a product and service provider.

I make presentations and conduct seminars on a variety of leadership effectiveness, team and organizational performance, and business improvement strategies. During these engagements, I often poll the audience about various customer service experiences. Remember that customer service and particularly satisfaction are unique to the individual. Polling is subjective and does not necessarily validate a trend toward improving or declining levels of customer service. Nonetheless, when I ask my audience to describe their recent customer experiences, they consistently respond with some enlightening data regarding level of satisfaction. My questions also prompt some lively discussion.

My survey method is informal, by show of hands, and normally involves my asking two simple questions:

  • How many of you could describe at least one truly outstanding customer service experience in the last month?
  • How many of you could describe at least one disappointing customer service experience in the last month?

The response to the first question is typically a silent pause and a variety of somewhat bewildered facial expressions around the room. I then ask a few volunteers to share their experiences with the audience.

The second question typically generates a very different response. I seldom need to ask for volunteers to share their experiences. In fact, about fifty to seventy-five percent of the audience will raise their hands, and facial expressions range from a modest smile to a blatant frown.

Why does good customer service seem to be the anomaly these days? Perhaps you have had some of the following or similar thoughts in recent times:

  • Maybe it’s just my turn to be abused.
  • It’s probably just a bad day for this individual, team, or organization. I’ll put my needs aside and hope for the best next time around.
  • Maybe my standards are just too high.
  • I should just be satisfied with the quality of the product or service and more forgiving of their mediocre performance.
  • I sure don’t want to cause a scene….

Rather than accept the unacceptable or be cynical in our attitudes while abandoning hope for customer satisfaction, perhaps we should be more proactive and begin thinking less and asking more of the following questions:

  • Why would I expect or accept anything less than what I was promised, paid for, or expected to get in exchange for my investment?
  • If I do not challenge the provider when my needs are unmet, what can I expect in the future and what type of behaviors am I reinforcing by tolerating mediocrity?
  • Why would I accept anything less than what I provide to my customers?
  • Why would I want to leave with a feeling of defeat or perhaps anger in addition to not having my needs met with this product or service?
  • If nothing changes, nothing changes, right?

In the context of leadership effectiveness, savvy business leaders are very deliberate in creating the conditions (i.e. people, policy, processes, etc.) for extraordinary customer satisfaction. Extraordinary leaders also understand that energy allocation and conservation is an essential component of success in today’s business environment. In other words, effective leaders know how to allocate the organization’s limited resources to ensure delivery of the best experience and highest level of satisfaction for the customer.

It is much easier and more cost-effective to retain versus replace customers. On average, customers tell three others about their exceptional customer service experience and eleven about their unsatisfactory customer service experiences. Simple math suggests that being deliberate in the delivery of exceptional customer service is smart business and an even smarter demonstration of effective leadership.

The following articles were published in Leadership Best Practices™ earlier this year. You may find them of interest in relation to exceptional customer service as the norm versus the anomaly.

  • Exceptional Customer Service Creates Unique Competitive Advantage
  • How Great Leaders Inspire the Best from Their People

HPS is pleased to announce that we now provide high-performance Customer Service Improvement Strategies in the context of leadership development and Emotional Intelligence. We will continue to feature articles on customer service best practices and will soon unveil a new addition to our website, www.hp–, with services devoted entirely to exemplary Customer Service.

Larry Fehd

Chief Executive Officer & Founder / HPS
Executive Leadership & Business Optimization Advisor

M: (512) 415-0748

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