Once again American Express has released its Customer Service Barometer (2012 version, 2014 version).  Once again, the findings aren’t pretty (see below):

  • Companies consistently miss expectations and are getting steadily worse – 31% in 2012 versus 26% two years earlier.
  • 2/3 of customers are willing to spend more with companies that provide excellent service.  This finding bears out earlier studies.  For those willing to spend more, excellent service translates to 13% more (up from 9% in the 2010 study).
  • Social media is not yet a mainstream mechanism for delivering customer service.  When social media is used to make an inquiry, consumers can count on responses only 31% of the time.   (See this opportunity/risk analysis of using social media to deliver customer service.)

The downward trend in so many metrics suggests one of three possibilities:

  1. Companies are not taking the data to heart.
  2. Companies are delusional about their current state – This option seems likely given The Temkin Group’s finding that 65% of companies rate themselves better than average.  (Mathematically possible, yes, but unlikely just the same.)
  3. Companies are incompetent at implementing the necessary changes.  If this is the case, American Express provides handy “tips” to help.
    1. Great service starts with people – Absolutely agree!  This is also the place poor service starts too, so beware.
    2. Listen to your employees – Only works if employees are listening to customers.
    3. Every interaction is an opportunity to drive engagement – I recommend this book to elucidate.

Nothing in this report changes previous conclusions – the path to greater profitability starts with engaged employees exceeding customer expectations.  The pivot point is to take the actions that will yield the biggest and most immediate positive impact on your customer experience.  Customers clearly want us to succeed and are willing to pay more!  The results show just as clearly that we aren’t.

Customer Service Levels Decline