Customer Service as a Human Resources Issue

78% of consumers have abandoned a transaction due to bad customer service experiences (American Express Survey, 2011)

89% of customers report having stopped doing business with companies because of bad customer service, even though only 49% of executives at the same companies believed this rate of bad customer service was true. 86% of customers say they are willing to pay more for a great experience (RightNow [an Oracle company] Customer Experience Impact Reports, 2011& 2012).

The first contact or, an important one in the process, a customer has with your business is often with one of your employees. Are your customers being provided with exceptional, friendly service every time? Are employees well trained to answer frequently asked questions in a caring, professional manner? Is there a system for dealing with unusual circumstances?

Recently, I needed to extend a hotel reservation that I had made online. Not being able to make the change digitally without incurring a significant rate increase for the entire stay, I contacted the hotel directly. The reservation clerk, while courteous, had no idea how to help me. When I suggested that she might reach out to the facility's general manager (GM) for assistance, she suggested that I should do so directly. Fortunately, when I did so via email, the GM responded within minutes and was able to quickly override the system and get back to me with the requested change at no additional cost. She also apologized for the inconvenience and thanked me for my continued business over the years. While she clearly appreciated the role of customer service, her employee did not.

It is one thing to tell subordinates that you want them to treat customers well. It is another to clearly define what that means in terms of the unique products/services that your firm provides. Are guidelines provided in written form? Under what circumstances can an employee gain additional authority, as well as responsibility, to go the extra mile for a customer?

Every salesperson knows that the cost of gaining a new client is much more expensive than keeping an existing one. How are you capitalizing on your "human" resources to retain business?