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Customers Have Clear Expectations in Customer Service, But Are Those Being Met?

July 30, 2014

There is often a difference between what people say and how they say it. Anyone with the simplest grasp of sarcasm knows how modifying pitch and tone can turn a compliment into a scathing insult. In customer service, meanwhile, this is no different, and may have even greater potential ramifications for the business. It's one thing to gather the customer service staff for a five minute huddle and tell said staff to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk, but as a look at the problem from Business 2 Community shows, making sure what's said and what's meant can be a much more complex task.


A recent study from the Center for Services Leadership, the CCMC, and the W.P. Carey School of Business—dubbed, eye-catchingly enough, the “Customer Rage Study”--shows that customers really aren't getting what's most desired out of contact with the customer service departments of many businesses. Some of the items in question seem basic, while others seem a bit subjective; for instance, 80 percent of respondents in the Customer Rage Study wanted to be thanked for their business, yet only 33 percent actually got the thanks desired. 76 percent wanted a simple apology, yet only 32 percent actually got it. A likewise proportion also wanted to be spoken to in simple, everyday language instead of sitting through the reading of a script, and a likewise proportion got it.

That's when things got odd. Eighty-four percent wanted the assurance that a problem would not happen again, but only 21 percent got that assurance. Eighty-three percent demanded the generally-acknowledged definition of empathy—to “have the company representative put themselves in their shoes”—but just 21 percent got it. Perhaps strangest of all, 94 percent wanted “to be treated with dignity,” but only 35 percent acknowledged getting that.

Thankfully, addressing these points seems comparatively simple. A study from Software Advice noted that 69 percent of customers believed that the customer service experience was improved when the representative wasn't reading from a script—over half said that it improved either “a lot” or “tremendously”--and customers found that “respect” was transmitted fairly easily by using the customer's name where appropriate and the simple use of “please” and “thank you.” Even the use of writing tended to improve things; a more casual rather than formal response tended to be better received—65 percent preferred casual over formal's 35 percent—but negative and very serious situations tended to require a more formal tone.

The problem with something like this is that it will seldom be universal. While adopting simple policies like minimizing reliance on scripts or just adding little touches like an increase of courtesy would seem to help, some of these measures are broad. How did those 94 percent, for example, interpret “being treated with dignity,” and how did two thirds of said respondents not get it? It's one thing to be rude to customers—many have had rude customer service reps before dealing with issues—but it's another to be an excessively demanding customer and then later insist that the agent was rude instead of placing blame on the customer.

Still, there do appear to be basic measures that can be taken, and every little bit helps in the end. The better kind of job that customer service can do in the end, the more likely the customers are to come back.




Edited by Alisen Downey

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