How to Assess Return on Investment in Customer Service

Customer Service don't careAny investment in Customer Service a company considers, has to be examined for its potential negative impact on overall customer experience.

The personal negative experience, I recently had with my investment company’s customer “dis”-service organization, caused me to reach out to the CEO in desperation. To his credit, my plea was handled immediately and constructively. The problem, that was bugging me for a few months, was resolved within an hour the CEO was made aware of it.  In his email to me, he wrote

“We have made a significant investment in customer service and process. I hope you decide to give us another try.”

That comment made me think about how management assesses their investment in customer service. Without knowing when and how the company made their investment, it is hard for me to be definitive whether that investment produced an expected return from the management perspective. However, from my perspective as a customer, it obviously did generate an experience I would not recommend to others.

In my experience, most managers use the term investment in relation to customer service when they talk about technology, processes and cost reduction.

The subsequent call from the VP of Customer Experience, to get my feedback about the resolution, has confirmed my suspicions. He treated this incident as a UX Designer would, as oppose to a Customer Experience professional. I agree, that their site, and underlying processes, could be improved and/or expanded to prevent an incident like mine from becoming a problem. However, it is only a part of the problem. The crux of the problem is the company’s culture and HR practices, that tolerate people who are not interested in helping their customers.

There is no doubt that product/service design has great impact on customer experience. Particularly, in a startup environment. Startups disrupt status quo business practices. Because there is so much to be learn about newly introduced products, it often falls on customer service to bridge gaps in product functionality and handle customer frustrations with undiscovered use cases.  Investment into the evolution of the product, relieves pressure on customer service, as the product matures. However, such investment will fail without adequate attention to, and funding of,  the customer centricity culture. Such focus should precede any investment into efficiency of the operations or product improvement. If customer centricity is not a startup’s religion, it is – build to be acquired, i.e. to make a quick, handsome profit for their VC’s and themselves, but not to become a real leader in their market.

“Real” Customer Service takes ownership of their customer problems and invests the time and effort required to find a resolution. Pretenders ask you to re-install, re-boot, or otherwise deflect the problem back to you. They are also excellent in denial

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The best return on your investment in Customer Service is an investment into it’s culture. Invest into creation of “real” customer service. Tolerance of pretenders is a fatal flaw a great startup cannot afford.

 

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