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March 18, 2009

Customers Seek a Voice to Improve Customer Service

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

Customer service – this phrase is used so loosely that it is often unclear just exactly what customer service is. Too often, it is merely responding to a customer need, irrespective of the quality of that response. Countless surveys tell us that this just isn’t enough to keep customers and in this tough economy, companies cannot afford to be flippant with customer service.

Customer Strategy recently reported on a Vanguard Scotland study that evaluated customer expectations in terms of customer service. According to this survey, organizations must maintain service to retain and attract customers in this tough economy.

The consultancy firm also discovered that flexibility and understanding customer needs were the most important attributes favored by customers dealing with service departments.
The survey was circulated among 40 public and private sector employees in Scotland. In its research, Vanguard Scotland found that IVR machines, poor delivery, failed promises and indecisive frontline staff were at the top of the list of undesirable qualities in a service department.

Those surveyed listed specific companies that delivered what they considered to be decent customer service. These companies included Audi Service Centers, T-Mobile (News - Alert), BA, Virgin Trains, Gear for Girls, Novatech, Symantec, Jet Blue Airlines, O2 and The Folio Society. Companies that were listed as providing poor service were: Sky, Trainline, Scottish Power, Scotrail, Ryanair, BT (News - Alert), Pizza Hut, Abbey National and APH.

Stuart Corrigan, managing director of Vanguard Scotland, noted in the Customer Strategy piece: "The survey is a telling snapshot of organizations that provide both satisfactory and poor customer service. It stresses the importance of getting the basics right first such as flexibility, understanding and ease of service."
In addition to being easy to deal with and flexibility, survey respondents also favored those companies that offered them something a little extra. If a company offered special rates or through in something for free, the customer was more likely to favor the company and remain loyal.

On the flip side, those companies unable to deliver as quickly as promised – or at all – were the biggest target for complainers. A company that promises a customer something must be able to deliver upon that promise. Companies should also strive to try and exceed customers’ expectations.

"The survey indicates there remains a huge gulf in customer service provision in the UK," said Corrigan. "Customers deserve high service levels more than ever in the current downturn. Basic customer service is far from common practice across many UK and global organizations."

The only way that customer service will change is if customers demand it. If customers refuse to buy from companies that do meet customer service expectations, those companies will either change their ways or face closure. The power is literally with the people.

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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