There is clearly growing interest in improving customer service.  You see it in the number of companies promoting their service.  You also see it in the number of surveys you get most anything you buy.  But I recently began to wonder if there is more interest in chasing a metric than making significant strides to improve the customer service experience. 

A few examples to illustrate my point follow:

  • The poster at a local car dealership talked about how well the dealership performed on their manufacturer’s customer service survey.  They displayed a complete list of their scores for the past month.  In the past, they had a board that displayed letters from satisfied customers.  I liked reading these unsolicited customer comments.  They even posted some from less-than-satisfied customers.  Reading these letters was interesting, and they helped reinforce why I chose to bring my car in for repairs and service.  Now I see a number.  What does 9.4 mean?  Is it good, bad, or in the middle?  What does it say about the experience customers are having at this dealership?
 In a similar vein, a local Home Depot had a bell positioned by the exit door.  There was a big sign asking customers to ring it if they had good service.  The great thing about this is that it was instant feedback to employees and customers about their service.  Unfortunately, the bell is now gone.  On my cash register tape I have the opportunity to go one line and give my feedback and get entered into a contest.  Personally, I wish they had left the bell in place.  I rang it a few times and noticed the smiles on the part of both employees and customers.  It was simple but effective feedback.  It was not about a number but about providing a customer with the opportunity to sound off in a useful way.

The score or metric you use (e.g., NPS, Overall Satisfaction, Ease of Use) is only a quantifiable measure of many facets of the customer experience.  Some of these facets could be great and others less so.  Focusing more attention on the actual customer service experience is what counts the most.  Observing customers as they obtain service, listening to how customers are treated over the phone, and taking the time to read the comments that do come in on most surveys are the best ways to understand which facets of the customer experience are working.  Remember, all facets do not have to be perfect but they have to be very good and some have to be great.  If this happens then the score will take care of itself.


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