Customer Service is No Longer Good Enough

This article is published on the MSSBTI.com  website. David is Executive Director of the MSS Business Transformation Institute.

This is one of my favorite ambiguous quotes from the internet about how businesses deal with customers. Depending on the source, the quote has been attributed to LL Bean, to Mahatma Gandhi or to some guy who wrote a book in the 1950’s:

A customer is the most important visitor on our premises.
He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him.
He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it.
He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it.
We are not doing him a favor by serving him.
He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.
-Unknown

When I ask workshop participants to think about this quote in terms of their own organization, they generally admit that, at some level, they often treat customers as a burden. Customers are, for many, an element of doing business that distracts them from their daily activities whether they are in operations, administration, IT or sometimes even marketing and sales.

At the same time, when asked to ponder these questions:

  • What is the most important element that business can control that makes it successful?
  • What is the easiest way for a company to make money or lose it?
  • What is the fastest way for a company to build its reputation?
  • What is the fastest way for a company to destroy its reputation?

They all know the singular answer – the customer experience.

This answer comes intuitively. We are all customers of companies and we have all had bad experiences. Sometimes we feel helpless. Say in the case of an airline in your companies’ travel program that you would like to avoid but are mandated to fly. In other cases, we feel empowered and pull the plug on doing business with the company. Either way, for the company, the result is negative. Read more