Service of How Much Are Your Customers Worth?

November 18th, 2010

Categories: Accommodation, Appreciation, Attitude, Courtesy, Customer Service, Fashion, Responsiveness, Staffing, Tone of Voice

customer-service

Customer service was the topic of a segment on CBS Sunday Morning recently. We heard how much more it costs for a live operator to handle a query to customer service–$7+ if the person works in the U.S. vs. $3+ if they’re responding from overseas. The really cheap route, recorded voice accompanied by the dreaded “press one, press two” costs some 35 cents.

To make the right decisions, a business owner has to ask him/herself:

**How much does it cost to acquire a customer? Less than a penny? $10 or $20?

**How complicated is the product to use?

**Is repeat business important?

**Does wasting someone else’s time matter to you?

**Are you impregnable to negative buzz because you are protected–such as investment and commercial banks and mortgage lenders–or because people have no choice about using you if they want/need your service–such as cable or satellite TV in¬†places there are no other options?

prideI’ve left off the list “personal pride in providing the best.” What company doesn’t claim to manufacture or import or sell or represent innovative, unequaled, top-quality products made by inspired, loyal employees? But do all/most?

Here’s one that does-Loft, part of the Ann Taylor family of women’s fashion stores. I thought I’d slipped into another era or maybe I wasn’t in Times Square but in the south or Midwest. On entering, a young woman smiled and sounded as though she meant “hello.” Two associates, in different parts of the store, subsequently asked me if they might help me. They, too, sounded as though they wanted to. They were like well-trained maitre d’s at the finest restaurants who quietly patrol the floor and unobtrusively add value to the experience. One of them approached a woman who was trying on jackets. He quietly pointed out where the nearest mirror was. Preventative retail service, like healthcare, what a concept! [Readers have repeatedly written about similar experiences at Gracious Home in NYC.]

What additional questions should a business ask itself when determining the type/cost of customer service assistance to invest in? How much more would you pay a retail establishment, importer or manufacturer to provide great customer service? Should a business give you the choice and charge more or less depending?

 question

3 Responses to “Service of How Much Are Your Customers Worth?”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    I have no customers and never had any, but it would seem that a customer is more precious than gold. No customers? No sales. No business.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    You’ve said it the best! I agree.

  3. Hester Craddock Said:

    Jeanne,

    I am very much in agreement with you on this. Common sense would lead one to assume that a satisfied customer is near priceless, or at least worth keeping somewhat content. However, that is not the case today.

    Most large corporations by various means have made it difficult or impossible for their customers to switch to a new supplier. For example: We receive rotten service from the telephone company, but we explored switching to a new provider and discovered that the alternative would be no better but probably worse.

    Corporate management is judged by its performance in the very short term. If you make a greater than anticipated profit in the third quarter of the year, your stock price tends to go up in the fourth and management gets a bigger bonus at year end, etc. Obviously, it takes a while to loose a significant number of your customers. However, the cost impact on your bottom line from shifting your labor-intensive customer service operation from the U.S. to India is immediate.

    One of the reasons I was loyal to American Express for over 30 years, was the quality of its customer service. When you called with a problem, your call was not answered by “Press one” “Press two,” but by a competent American. Then they changed to India, and I cancelled my card. I wrote the chairman and received a perfunctory acknowledgement. Obviously American Express knew that they would lose a few customers, but figured that the short term benefit of the switch was worth the long term loss of some customers. Besides, the chairman was, no doubt, pretty sure that he would have moved on to a better job by the time customer losses had any impact on profits.

    Hester

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