Customer Service: Is There Such a Thing as “Too Much”?

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When trying to win over your customers, have far should you go? Every business wants to deliver an experience that keeps the best customers coming back time and time again. Some companies have chosen to incorporate premium customer service into their business strategy as a key differentiator (think Nordstrom, Zappos, and Ritz-Carlton), and “legendary” customer service typically commands a premium price.

But what about everybody else? It is a delicate balance between satisfying customers and maintaining profitability / margin objectives. You want to delight your customers so you can win their loyalty, right? Well … it’s worth taking a look at a recent article published in the July/August issue of the Harvard Business Review entitled “Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers”. (You can find it here on HBR’s website or a free reprint here on the site of Corporate Executive Board.)

According to the authors’ research, “Loyalty has a lot more to do with how well companies deliver on their basic, even plain-vanilla promises than on how dazzling the service experience might be. Yet companies have failed to realize this and pay dearly in terms of wasted investments and lost customers.” Conventional wisdom would have us believe that to secure customer loyalty we have to “blow away” their expectations. The authors suggest this over-delivery is largely wasted effort that is simply lost on the customers. “Our research shows that exceeding their expectations … makes customers only marginally more loyal than simply meeting their needs.”

The authors go on to evaluate three metrics (Customer Satisfaction, Net Promoter Score, and Customer Effort Score) and their ability to predict customer loyalty. I won’t give away the punchline, but suffice it to say that customers love companies that are easy to do business with. Businesses will always have to “work harder” to satisfy and retain customers, but this article provides some insight on also “working smarter”. I encourage you to take a look at the full article and thoughtfully consider if your contact center is “working harder” in the best places.  Make sure you really understand where those high-leverage “moments of truth” are found.