Customer Service. How good are we? How good are they?

These are the most frequently asked questions I get as an consultant for customer service organizations.

The questions sound easy. But they are difficult, I would say not, to answer. And in fact it is not a question, but many.

  • How should our service level be?
  • What are the systems the others use?
  • How do they train, develop, recruit people?
  • What is the best productivity?

But the real question indeed is a request. “Can you please show us the trick that makes us better than the others?”

If it is about bringing in experience how to make things right, I might help. Truth is that there is no such trick, that makes everything good.

Everybody wants to be better than other ones. (meaning competition) That´s why you are asking how good they are.

Normally there is not a lot information about that. There are some market studies about customer care organizations. But please believe me when I am saying “Don´t trust the information in there”. These studies often show much more how companies would like to have their customer service organizations, than it shows how they really are.

We all learned that only comparing gives security. Customer service does cost money, therefore it is often seen as a hygiene factor. Means? Yes, managers do not really believe that good customer service will create customers (although they will always tell you when asking), but they are pretty sure that bad customer service makes non customers out of customers.

So, how good do you have to be? How much is just good enough to be better than the competitor, are at least not so bad that your customers become customers of him?

That’s the dangerous tradeoff within customer service organizations happening all over the world. And therefore the question: “How good are we compared to other companies?”

It is about creating a comparative advantage on the market, reducing churn risk and carrying out a commercial optimization to spend only that amount of money for customer service that is really needed. Confessions of quality are nowadays often part of company profiles and visions. Is it all a lie? No it isn´t.

On the one hand there is a sincere emotional desire of managers to care for their customers and make them satisfied. On the other hand commercial truth is that we made contact centers out of customer service centers. So we did change it from a social interface between customer and company towards an organization having processes like a manufacturing company.

So, how good are you compared to other companies?

Yes, there are market common KPI´s to show the quality of a customer service department. These are just indicators, nothing more.

  • Which are they?
  • Service level phone / written
  • Net promoter score
  • Customer effort score
  • Productivity of agents as contact per hour
  • Utilization of personnel
  • Customer satisfaction scores
  • Opening hours
  • Retention save rates
  • Outbound sales rates
  • Pricing of hotlines
  • And many more

You will have to take the following parameters into account.

  • Branch of company
  • Product portfolio
  • Country of customer service operation
  • Cultural background of employees
  • Process- & organizational structure

What are the best customer service organizations in the world?

In my experience the above mentioned KPI´s do not play an important role finding that out. Think about what a customer service department really should deliver. Answering questions and solve problems of people that decided to spent some money for your products or services.

It is about people getting together. Common ground is key. The best service organizations do all have some similarities.

  • Strong focus on customer satisfaction of the board
  • Successful products in the market (bad products never create good service)
  • A corporate culture that is not dividing customers and company into 2 groups, but incorporates both into 1 group aiming to fulfill a vision.
  • Processes that are not just there, but thought till the end, including needs of everybody.
  • No cost focus in customer service, but a pure quality focus. Cost efficiency comes with it automatically if you do so.
  • Stability. At personnel and concerning the targets.

So. How good is your company compared to others?

If you have a vision and believe that people being your customers are a worthy treasure to your company, let´s talk about it. We all are customers.