Since 2005, we have provided a transactional survey process, ServiceConnect, to our clients.  Most of the clients are Caterpillar dealers.  One of the biggest challenges they have faced is the Passive customer (i.e. the customer who gives a 7 or 8 on the willingness to refer or Net Promoter Score question).  Over the past year several dealers have made significant improvements in moving Passive customers to the Promoter category.  I interviewed one client CEO about what they did and he had a simple response. 

“We are communicating with our customers more now than ever.”  He indicated that they are contacting all Passive customers after a service and asking them how the service could have been improved.  Interestingly, they are learning that it is often the lack of effective communication that keeps the customer from giving a higher score.

Our research shows that a major reason for a customer giving a service experience a Passive rating is inadequate communication.  Consider a few questions:

  • When the customer requests service are you being absolutely clear about when the customer can expect it to be delivered and completed?
  • If the schedule changes, are you communicating the changes to the customer?
  • When the service is complete is someone asking the customer at the point of completion “are you satisfied?”
  • Do you have a follow-up process in place to make certain the customer is truly satisfied?

Some argue that service is the new marketing.  I agree as a great customer service experience leads to referrals and positive word-of-mouth.  Perhaps more important, in some markets the number of customers is not increasing and, in fact, is declining.  Keeping profitable customers is ever more important.   Our experience shows that a key to high levels of customer satisfaction and, ultimately, customer retention is this devilishly simple thing called communication.


Caterpillar is a registered trademark of Caterpillar, Inc.  Net Promoter Score is a registered trademark of Satmetrix and Frederich Reichheld.


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