The customer is king! The customer is always right! The customer comes first! Our customers are our No. 1 priority! Customer satisfaction is guaranteed! We create customers for life! We listen to the customer! We take care of the customer so someone else doesn’t have to! We are committed to the customer experience! … and so goes the customer service platitudes merry-go-round. If everyone is so darn committed to it, then why does customer service still suck so often?
It’s a sad truth that a man telling his wife he never looks at other women is more likely to be valid than those slogans. Of course, that is not to say when those phrases were adopted it was not done sincerely or with the best intentions of heart and mind. Yet, whether it’s an incoming customer call falling into voice-prompt hell or a missus having to deal with a wandering eye, action truly does speak louder than words. And, thanks to the Internet and social media, that action or in some cases inaction can spread like a Southern California wildfire — torching a company’s reputation just as sure as those flames instantly turn brush into ash.
I have spoken to dozens upon dozens of security company owners, presidents, CEOs, managers and supervisors the past several months and cannot recall a single one who did not stress how customer care (because you see “service” is no longer a strong enough term, and some now instead go as far as “relations”) was a core operational objective of their business. Again, earnest though they may be, most of our real-world experience tells us otherwise. In fact, research shows while 80% of CEOs believe their organizations provide an excellent customer experience, just 8% of their customers agree.
That piece of staggering data was shared by Kristen Simmons, managing partner of the marketing firm Lightswitch (lightswitchcx.com), in a presentation she made during an Electronic Security Industry (ESA) luncheon held at June’s 2012 Electronic Security Expo (ESX) in Nashville, Tenn. Simmons, a former Mazda V.P. who led the popular “Zoom Zoom” ad campaign and founder of LiveSmart Security, spoke of how customer satisfaction is no longer good enough. That’s because today’s business environment requires delivering exceptional experiences that turn customers into advocates.
Increasingly, those experiences are becoming the final competitive battleground, and that advocacy must be instilled within and throughout the organization among employees before it can emanate outward to customers and continue onward. Although achieving and maintaining such a high level of performance can be intimidating, what Simmons said rang true. And she expressed confidence in the desire and ability for many of our industry’s operators to thrive in this new customer-centric era.
Simmons offered a three-step process to get started immediately on the path to creating extraordinary customer service:
- Find out what your customers really think about your company right now at this very moment.
- Determine all the points of contact where your business and customers intersect or engage.
- Assess your culture, both of your customers and within your own company.
To close out this topic with some “voice of the customer” food for thought, here are select comments commercial end users gave when asked a few months back what specific quality they coveted in their security systems provider:
“Expertise, on time, on budget, follows the specs, does proper submittals and shop drawings, and listens” … “Anticipating future needs and identifying solutions that can be integrated into our current operations within our budget” … “On call 24/7; when a problem arises we get a resolution promptly” … “Good advice that will save me money over the short and long haul” … “The ability to talk an employee through a situation requiring troubleshooting over the phone and able to resolve the problem without dispatching a technician” … “Adept at making the new work well with the existing when replacing the old failed components.”