2: When Customers Talk

The author suspects that, if the person who owned the business knew how his employees were treating the customers, he'd probably have a fit. The author suggests the solution is to hire "service naturals" - people who have the attitude that the customer is to be taken care of, and who don't need to be "trained" to recognize the importance of customer experience.

Different customers may need to be handled in different ways, and even one person may need to be treated differently in different service situations. As a result, there is no single "customer service personality" that employees can be trained to adopt in order to please every customer in every situation.

Survey Results

The author ran a survey to explore the perception of customer service. As it turns out, it's not too bad: 2.3% felt it was excellent, 28% good, 45.7% average, 19.8% bad, and 3.8% said it was awful. That seems skewed to the favorable side -but "average" is not a favorable response. New customers are not attracted, and existing customers are not retained, to a business whose service is "average." Considering that, only about 1 in 3 respondents had a favorable impression of service.

When asked why service is not good, the responses are split: servers who are either not property trained or don't care, establishments that don't hire enough help, and other customers who are pushy or rude. He expects that respondents may be inclined to avoid blaming the servers because many of them are, or have been, in a service role themselves.

The author notes that most customers are accustomed to the service environment, and there are strategies and behaviors they use to get good service. Some of the items that work are:

As for what doesn't work: asking to talk to their supervisor is never helpful, or insisting on being served by a specific individual (especially of a particular race or gender).

Another question asked how far a person would be willing to drive to a location where they received "better service" - the author breaks it down, but key categories are that about 38% of customers would be willing to drive up to five miles, which means 62% would drive more than five miles (and 16.9% even responded they would drive "20 miles or more") - which goes to show that good service can overcome an inconvenient location.

He also found that people are likely to tell others when they receive exceptionally good service (97%) or really bad service (96%), which seems to overcome the conception that customers who get bad service are more inclined to talk about it. (EN: I did some independent study on review sites, and found the same - there are far more "good" reviews than bad ones on most sites.)

As to the number of instances of poor service it takes to get a person to change service providers, about 17% said they'd leave after one incident, 41% said that they would leave after two, 28% after three, and only 14.3% would abide four or more - though he mentions that 1.4% of people are "absolutely masochistic" and would stay with a provider who gave them bad service 10 or more times in a row ... so "even crummy operations can have at least a few customers."