My wife is mad at me; I was relating an email survey experience where a financial institution had sent me a customer service survey. I described the truth, I have no reason to remain a customer and feel less than enthused at remaining a customer. My wife fearing I had been insulting, derogatory, or denigrating, got mad at me. I explained my position and how I had answered the rote questions, and she is still not happy. But, her position and my position bring up an interesting point, centered around the following question, “Why should a customer remain a customer?”
Use My Name!
Daily I receive programmed emails from multiple companies. Do you know how I pick the ones I want to do business with? They know my preferred name and use it! What an incredible concept; since the early 1990s, we have had the technology to put in names, create mailing lists, and use people’s preferred names, and businesses still struggle with this concept. Why?
I have several titles, want my business, know and use my titles. Pick one, and use it! How can a company claim they “know their customers” when that company cannot use the customer’s preferred name or title in addressing that customer? I have worked hard to earn a Ph.D.; I do not expect everyone to call me “Dr.,” but it sure as anything beats being called “mister” all the bloody time. Worse, I still hold several ranks and positions that come with titles. I could be addressed using them, but even with a preferred name on many company customer profiles, I get that lazy customer service representative that calls me Mr. Salisbury! Guess what company I am going to ditch at the first opportunity?
On the topic of names, if I say, “everyone calls me Dave,” and you continue to call me “Michael,” “Mike,” or “Mr. Salisbury,” you are either not listening, or your company has the worst policies for addressing customers. Guess what company I will end my business relationship with post-haste? I have given permission to use a preferred name, use my name. Listen to me!
Active listening can be faked! Customer service agents, I know active listening can be manufactured, I have been a customer service agent, I know your stress, I know your job, and I know your problems. Thus, to your bosses, I appeal; stop the active listening drama! If you are not stressing reflective listening to your employees, where they and the customer reach a mutual understanding, you are not doing your job leading customer relations!
My wife claims that conclusion is “Too harsh.” I disagree vociferously. Here’s why! Remember how I just related how I had informed customer service agents, “everyone calls me Dave,” and the agent continued to call me everything but my preferred name. Failure to listen remains the number one customer complaint for a reason; the agents are not listening to reach a mutual understanding. Too often, they are not even attempting to listen actively but are listening to respond, responding to the voices in their heads and not the customer!
Do you want better customer survey responses; try listening, then acting, then listening again. Not speaking; listening, acting, listening, acting; it’s a pattern worth doing! Yet, too often, what is the pattern found, maybe listening, speaking, maybe listening, token action, maybe listening, half-hearted action. Wait for the customer to become frustrated and go away. Guess which company I am going to be ending my business relationship with quickly?
I have four companies who I have informed (several times) I no longer can do business with them. They continue to send me emails asking for my business for old properties and cars I no longer possess. Listening is but half the answer; you must also respond with definitive action. How many times does a customer have to relate to your business they have moved? I did business with a windshield repair company in Phoenix, AZ. Good company, good service, but for the next three years, I received calls from them monthly, and I had moved out of their service area. They were told this month after month, I was promised month after month this was the final call, and month after month, I received another call. Guess whose recommendation I deleted online?
Business processes matter; honoring your word matters, displaying trust, integrity, and fulfilling a promise made all matters in the customer relationship long before the product or service is discussed. Yet, how often are these issues on shaky ground, before the ink is dry on the service contract or the receipt for goods? I have a cell phone provider I detest; I long for the day I can finally walk free of this provider and never look back. Because their customer attention is deplorable, I feel used and abused every time I interact with this company. I have the same problem with my current Internet provider. When your customer service is so deplorable, you have to climb to become terrible; there is a problem that colors, signage, marketing, and gimmicks cannot fix!
Why Would I gladly Pay a Higher Price; Service!
I was in the supermarket, my wife asked for a treat. To her, a treat is a bowl of deli mac & cheese, potato salad, or a bag of potato chips. As I was in the deli and they had her mac & cheese, I bought mac & cheese. My wife was shocked, I paid, what to her was an exorbitant price for the mac & cheese, but I was glad to pay the price. The counter worker wrapped the mac & cheese package in plastic wrap to protect it from spilling, was pleasant, remembered me from a previous visit, and made my day. The service was well worth the extra cost.
I kept going back to this store, making purchases long after this deli person was transferred to another store closer to their home because the service level did not go down. Thus, I remained satisfied to pay extra for the service I received. Walking on a cane, with labored breathing, and having a service representative walk with me, not ahead of me, so I feel like I have to race, is a significant service I would gladly pay more for. I felt respected and remembered from visit to visit, even if I was sporadic in visiting for over a month.
Long before the product or service costs are discussed is the customer experience. If the customer experience fails, you can have the coolest products and the best access to services and fail because you forget the customer experience! Getting back to the financial survey I just completed, it was full of Likert-style scale questions. If your company employs a Likert question on a survey, you need a follow-up self-directed qualitative question to explain directly after.
Likert-style questions are a quantitative researcher’s bread and butter, showing the relationships between agreement and disagreement on a broad scale. Generally, on a scale of 1-10, these questions and scales have come to be represented by emojis, colors, statements, and more as technology has advanced.
I completed 15 Likert-styled questions before I was asked why I rated the company as “Neither liked or disliked, neither favorable nor unfavorable.” Okay, so quantitative data is easier and less expensive to collect, collate, and report. But, if your customer survey is only collecting qualitative or quantitative data, you are only collecting half the story and none of the customer experiences! However, you cannot simply ask ½ the questions qualitative and ½ the questions quantitative and expect anything but GIGO. Careful planning is key to customer survey results worth your time and the customers time!
A customer satisfaction survey should first be an instrument of dedicated action! Where your best and brightest in customer relations work to analyze, report, and propose efforts to satisfy the customers. They investigate survey findings. They respond to survey questions and concerns, address real people, and produce tangible results.
A customer satisfaction survey is not the time, nor the place, for cute emojis and colorful pictures depicting customer attitudes. Can the customer survey be more than black and white; naturally. Remember that the customer survey is not where you go to flash and spin; this is where the customer goes, tells the truth, and expects action, not to be played with. If the customer takes the time to complete a survey, there is a reason, find the cause, know the customer, and win.
These are but three basics, fundamental points at the start of the customer relations journey. If you cannot get these three points right, the rest of the trip will be short, painful, and not fulfilling for you or your customers. Worse, the experiences will be remembered, and people have this nasty habit of not forgetting bad experiences. Why do the majority of people despise the DMV; because the majority of customers have experienced the most frustrating issues of their professional lives at the hands of the DMV agents. Governments abuse their customers, which is as bad as customer interactions get, and everyone feels betrayed when the government and bureaucrats use them.
You are in the private sector; you have competition; your first question daily should be, “Why should my customers remain, my customers?” When you answer this question, your customers will hear the answer loud and clear!
© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.