A Service Strategy for Our Time

It would seem many brands have put all of their service strategy eggs into what very well may be the wrong baskets of trying to delight and ‘wow’ customers.  Now, I am not saying I think delighting customers isn’t important, but I think centering your strategy on doing it all of time may be a mistake because there is a lot of recent research suggesting that delighting or ‘wowing’ doesn’t necessarily create long-term customer experience fans because what delights one person, doesn’t delight another, not to mention the fact that not every interaction offers the possibility of doing something that creates noteworthy delight.

Think about a trip to Starbucks for example, how many times do they literally ‘wow’ you, maybe once in a while with a free drink or something, but not on a regular basis.  What they do do however is to make drinks to your satisfaction day in and day out and then deliver it with a smile.  In addition, and maybe more importantly, when you have an issue, they fix it right there and without a hassle.

I am not alone in this assertion.  A recent Economist Intelligence Unit report indicates that out of over 2,000 people surveyed, 47% said that the elements most important in an ideal customer experience are fast response to questions and problems rather than attempts to ‘wow’ and delight.  Similarly, this same reporting says that the most annoying aspects in customers’ experience are slow responses to questions and problems (38%) as well as inaccurate or misleading information about the product (35%).

Thus, most brands should be thinking about mastering the basics of problem solving, empowerment of staff and making things easy before they move on to things like delight and ‘wow’.  This may prove to be a big ask however as empowering every employee to serve the customer and deliver on the customer experience seems to be ridiculously difficult for so many businesses who demand scripts, time-limited interaction and only manager-approved deviation from accepted solutions.  Without freedom to act and freedom to make customers human, the customer experience, not to mention long-term business success, is doomed.

In an accompanying report to the one above, according to employees, the top two obstacles that stand in the way of improving their organization’s customer experience were silos within the organization and lack of integrated systems for getting correct information.

What does this tell us?  For the forward thinking business, unifying the organization around the ability for all employees to respond quickly and accurately to the customer should be the first priority in the service strategy and ways to ‘wow’ and delight should follow only when priority one has been made a reality.

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