Customer service is dead!

By Bradly Sax

We’ve all heard tales of great customer service from companies like Nordstrom’s and Zappo’s accepting returns on items they don’t even sell and their random acts of customer delight such as sending flowers to customers having a bad day.  

After all, customers have a choice.   Most of us have competitors.  Even if we don’t, the customer can simply choose not to buy at all.  There are many great stories of great customer service.  

But customer service is dying a slow and painful death.  In some cases, it stems from having lost sight of taking care of our customers in the wake of operating our day-to-day business (now there’s some irony for you).  In other cases, it’s because today’s experts in customer care are focused beyond the interaction and on the whole customer experience.

What’s the difference? Customer service is about a transaction between your associates and your customer.  It might be over the phone, in person, via email or online.  Get it right and you might even leave a positive impression.  But is it a lasting one? 

Customer service is all about the transaction; the few moments or minutes of that interaction.  But those on the forefront of customer care are focused on customer experience — the customer’s total engagement with your company from the moment of considering doing business with you until long after the purchase is made.  Often known as CX, customer experience is defined as the product of the interactions between an organization and a customer over the duration of their relationship.  

Common touch points in a customer’s experience life cycle include attraction, awareness, discovery, cultivation, advocacy and purchase and use of an item or service.  Success is measured by the customer’s experience during all points of contact compared to their expectations.

There are several components involved in moving from customer service to customer experience.  Many of them happen long before the customer enters your business, your website or purchases a service.  Many of the components of a successful customer experience process are science-based and based on years of research and study. 

Before you can delve into a strategy of becoming a CX leader, however, you need to critically examine several key fundamentals of your business.  They are Executive Attitude, Associate Centricity, Customer Centricity and Measuring Outcomes and Continuous Improvement.

Let’s look at Executive Attitude for a moment.  This fundamental is critical to a successful customer experience process in your organization.  We have all heard senior leaders speak of customer centricity and creating value for the customers in order to earn their lifetime loyalty.  A recent study from Booz & Company found that the key differences between companies with winning customer-centric efforts and those not, were centered in the boardroom.  They included an executive predisposition for process and culture change, a clear and communicated leadership vision that is backed by strong leadership skills, clearly defined goals for the business and customer results, an open leadership style that breaks down functional boundaries and that responds to customer feedback.

Executive Attitude is closely aligned with company culture.  It is stronger than anything else.  Dynamic and engaged leadership that lives the values of the organization and demands that others do so by empowering them and holding them responsible and accountable demonstrate the central element of a leading Executive Attitude.  

So, celebrate success and more importantly celebrate failure so that the organization can learn from them.  Leaders who communicate, are transparent and share the good news and the bad are poised to set up their organization for a successful customer experience process. If leaders don’t tell associates their story, associates will make up their own, which will be far worse than the truth.  

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, leaders must invest in their people.  How can you expect them to invest in their customers if you aren’t investing in them? 

Bradly Sax is a Hospitality CX and Operations leader and expert in driving customer experience. Contact him at: BSax@SHGonline.com