Does it pay for itself?
When most people think of customer service, they picture an impersonal call center near Mumbai, or a computerized system that struggles to understand the caller’s question and leaves the consumer screaming to speak with a human. Such unhappy images still exist. But—driven by the internet, mobile devices, social media, company apps and a growing army of Millennial consumers—customer service is changing dramatically. At its best, it is a 24/7 interaction with customers that can take place in a store, on a mobile app, in a tweet, or in an online chat. This engagement is producing reams of data that help companies serve customers better. It is also empowering consumers, who now have considerably more information and choice when it comes to making a purchase. But questions remain: Does good customer service translate into good financial results? Is it important to improve the quality of service employees to achieve a good customer experience? Does social media improve customer service?
Businesses with poor customer service risk damaging their brand and bottom line.
Consumers are increasingly willing—and able—to call out companies that fail to meet expectations.
The customer is always right—but some are more equal (valuable) than others.
Dixon, Matthew, Nick Toman and Rick DeLisi, “The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty,” Portfolio/Penguin, 2013. Three management consultants at the Corporate Executive Board, a best-practices and technology company, take on the challenge of defining what really matters in company relationships with customers, and that’s loyalty.
Fader, Peter, “Customer Centricity: Focus on the Right Customers for Strategic Advantage,” Wharton Digital Press, 2012. A professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, who is co-director of the Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative, deconstructs the concept of customer centricity and describes it as a key growth strategy in a competitive and disruptive economy.
Notter, Jamie, and Maddie Grant, “When Millennials Take Over: Preparing for the Ridiculously Optimistic Future of Business,” IdeaPress Publishing, 2015. Two consultants present strategies on how businesses can use the characteristics of the Millennial Generation to generate business.
Reichheld, Frederick F., “The Ultimate Question 2.0 (Revised and Expanded Edition): How Net Promoter Companies Thrive in a Customer-Driven World,” Harvard Business Review Press, 2011. A partner at Boston-based management consulting firm Bain & Co. discusses how asking the right question—“Would you recommend this company?”—can help businesses assess customer loyalty and lifetime value.
“The difference between customer experience and customer service,” Disney Institute, Business Insider, April 5, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/
“Will a Robot Take Your Job One Day?” BBC News, Sept. 11, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/
Borowski, Craig, “Survey: What Customers Really Think About Your Call Center Script,” Hello Operator, May 5, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/
Chemi, Eric, “Proof That It Pays to Be America’s Most-Hated Companies,” Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Dec. 18, 2013, http://tinyurl.com/
Fry, Richard, “Millennials overtake Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation,” Pew Research Center, April 25, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/
Griswold, Alison, “The Most Hated Merger in America,” Slate, April 24, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/
Ripley, Amanda, “Starbucks the Benevolent?” The Atlantic, Feb. 3, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/
VanAmburg, David, “Customer Satisfaction and the 2013 Stock Market Anomaly,” ASCI Matters, Dec. 20, 2013, http://tinyurl.com/
Reports and Studies
“2013 Social Media Benchmark Study,” J.D. Power and Associates, Feb. 14, 2013, http://tinyurl.com/
“2014 Global Customer Service Barometer,” American Express, October 2014, http://tinyurl.com/
“Customer Service and Business Results: A Survey of Customer Service from Mid-Size Companies,” Dimensional Research, April 2013, http://tinyurl.com/
“How the IoT Is Shaping the Future of Customer Experience and Product Development,” Cito Research, March 2015, http://tinyurl.com/
Alvarez, Jose B., and Aldo Sesia, “Customer Loyalty Schemes in the Retail Sector,” Harvard Business Review, March 7, 2011, http://tinyurl.com/
Groopman, Jessica, “Customer Experience in the Internet of Things,” Altimeter Group, March 2015, http://tinyurl.com/
The Next Step
Brewster, Signe, “Customer Service Bots Are Getting Better at Detecting Your Agitation,” MIT Technology Review, Sept. 14, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/
Kirkpatrick, David, “Twitter’s new customer service tools enable brands to offer support,” Marketing Dive, Sept. 16, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/
Morrison, Kimberlee, “80% of Consumers Use Digital Devices to Contact Customer Service (Report),” AdWeek, Aug. 17, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/
“Here’s Target’s strategy heading into the holiday season,” Business Insider, Sept. 19, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/
“Kohl’s Associates to Deliver an Easy, Omnichannel Shopping Experience This Holiday Season,” Yahoo Finance, Sept. 19, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/
Milnes, Hilary, “How tech in Rebecca Minkoff’s fitting rooms tripled expected clothing sales,” Digiday, Sept. 23, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/
Buck, Claudia, “California fines Anthem $415,000 for not addressing consumer complaints,” Sacramento Bee, May 4, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/
Burns, Matthew, “State fines Blue Cross $3.6M for customer service problems,” WRAL, Sept. 15, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/
Taylor, Kate, “A study reveals a disturbing trend about Walmart locations across the US,” Business Insider, Aug. 30, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/
Telecommunications and Cable Companies
Fernandez, Bob, “Senate bares frustration with customer service of cable industry, including Comcast,” Philly.com, June 23, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/
Finley, Klint, “Comcast Is Facing a $100 Million Lawsuit Over Its Service Plan,” Wired, Aug. 2, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/
Jarvey, Natalie, “Startup Takes Aim at Comcast, Time Warner With ‘Concierge Cable’ Service,” The Hollywood Reporter, Sept. 14, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/
American Customer Satisfaction Index
625 Avis Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48108
A private company that conducts the only national cross-industry measure of customer satisfaction, factoring in data from 10 economic sectors and 43 industries.
Customer Service Institute of America
500 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 600, Chicago, IL 60611
An institute that certifies organizations using the International Customer Service Standard, which is based on an internal self-assessment backed by an external assessment and certification program.
Institute of Customer Service
Bridge House, 4 Borough High St., London, SE1 9QQ, UK
+44 (0) 207-260-2620
A group that seeks to help U.K. organizations improve business through better customer service.
International Council of Customer Service Organisations
Suite 2.03, 6a Glen St, Milsons Point, NSW 2061, Australia
A global trade group of member organizations that promotes international customer service standards, certification, awards and professional development programs.
International Customer Service Association
401 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 50611
An institute that provides programs and resources to help organizations advance, strengthen and promote customer service.
National Customer Service Association
1714 Pfitzer Road, Normal, IL 61761
An association that provides customer service education, development and support services.
Net Promoter Network/Net Promoter System
c/o Fred Reichheld, Bain & Company Inc., 131 Dartmouth St., Boston, MA 02116
A member community of organizations using the net promoter score to determine how well they are serving customers, and the umbrella group that monitors its use and collects data.
Professional Association for Customer Engagement
8445 Keystone Crossing, Suite 106, Indianapolis, IN 46240
A trade organization representing companies that use an omnichannel approach to engage customers.
SOCAP International: Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals in Business
625 N. Washington St., Suite 304, Alexandria, VA 22314
A membership organization promoting customer care and engagement for business.