ICMI is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


Why Isn’t Customer Service Improving?

sighDespite what industry experts may profess, customer service isn’t getting any better. While customers expect immediate answers to their inquiries, efficient order processing, and fast shipping, there’s no indication that fulfilling these expectations is improving customer service.

What research do I have to prove my point, you may ask? None. But I do have my own experiences. Despite emerging from the pandemic, service to customers appears to be generally stagnant. See which of the following has happened to you in the last few years:

  • You visited a website which still has a banner indicating delays in service due to the pandemic.
  • You encountered a message from an organization stating due to higher-than-expected call volumes, your wait times will be longer than usual.
  • You experienced back orders, lack of inventory, lost orders, or shipping delays.
  • You waited longer than a few minutes for an answer to a simple question.
  • You encountered a chatbot that was clueless about what you were inquiring about, one that couldn’t refer you to a “live person” because they weren’t available.
  • You visited a service establishment that curtailed hours due to lack of staff.

Shall I go on? For the past three years, we’ve been told that the reason an organization can’t deliver a better experience was due to the pandemic. Now we’re told as consumers that our experiences aren’t improving because of labor shortages or the lingering effects of the pandemic or supply chain disruptions.

Excuses. Excuses. Excuses. And as consumers, it seems we are patiently accepting these excuses as the new normal. Bad customer service is our new normal? Nope, not on my watch.

In the latest “National Customer Rage Survey” conducted by the Customer Care Measurement and Consulting organization, a whopping 74% of consumers said they had experienced a product or service problem in the past year, up from 66% in 2020. The percentage of consumers who have taken action to settle a score against a company through measures such as pestering or publicly shaming in person or online, has tripled to 9% from 3% in 2020 according to the study summarized by Katie Deighton in a recent Wall Street Journal article.

Instead of cutting back on service, organizations should be investing in their customer experiences. Now the headlines we read every day are about layoffs in the tech sector like Google or online commerce like Amazon in anticipation of a potential recession later this year or next. I understand the need to balance costs with profits, but we can’t keep viewing customer service as a cost center. We need to view it as a profit center - a profit center that contributes to increased revenues, improved customer loyalty, and a brand-enhancing experience. Organizations need to minimize short-term thinking and focus on the long-term potential of working with customers during difficult times that will pay back dividends in terms of improved retention.

There is no magic bullet to a better experience. All the journey mapping, webinars, ROI discussions, surveys, and strategies won’t instantaneously create a better experience for your customers. As stated earlier, customer expectations are changing dramatically and will continue to do so forever.

We want it in stock. We want it priced competitively. We want it shipped fast. We want it to be right when we receive it. We want effortless guarantees. We want free return shipping. We want it billed correctly.

Wait a minute. How exactly have customer expectations changed, then? Don’t these sound exactly like what we as consumers have always wanted? So, there it is. In a few sentences, I’ve given you a FREE CX strategy for your organization and a roadmap to achieve it. No consultants. No conferences. No books to buy. Just one simple formula – understand customer expectations and deliver. Consistently. Effortlessly. Accurately. Sustainably. Responsibly. Always.

Customer service is not the problem. Customer service is a symptom of a problem that occurred elsewhere in the customer’s journey with your organization’s product and services. It’s time to get serious about improving your customer service experience. Here are some suggestions that don’t require you to spend much of your organization’s profits:

Be easy to do business with.

Look for bottlenecks, pain points, and customer complaints and then improve on them. No need to try and solve world hunger – just find a few ways to improve your processes that customers will notice.

Work together.

Eliminate the silos. Look for like-minded and passionate employees in your organization across different functions and work together to improve your experiences.

Get your hands dirty.

Forget the white boards and the Post-it-notes. Get into the plant. Jump on a customer service call. Ship some products. Wait on a table or two. Talk to customers. What you’ll learn in a day will outweigh anything you could learn from a webinar or attending a conference.

Admit there are problems.

Don’t sugar coat your organization’s blemishes.

Put them out in the open and let them be seen by everyone in your organization. It’s the first step with every problem, right – admitting there is one?

Engage your customers by talking with them, not surveying them.

Ask them how you could do better. Know where the failures are in your processes. Use their experiences to guide your improvements.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Every organization has a wealth of knowledge embedded in its DNA. Seek out the experts and engage them in your quest for better experiences.

As consumers, we can’t wait much longer. There’s a sense of hope and momentum beginning to take shape as we emerge from the pandemic. Harnessing this energy can help us move in the direction of better experiences for our customers and employees. It’s then, and only then, that we can deliver better experiences to our customers each day.

Don’t wait another minute – harness the energy of normalcy and go for it!

Topics: Best Practices, Customer Experience, Customer Journey Mapping