I have been an unhappy customer this week. Standing in the shoes that our own customers would have occupied, I was entirely dependent on the whims of a service centre. When will they respond? Will I be treated as the valued customer I was promised I’d be when I signed up? Will they understand what I am asking, or will they try to pigeon hole me into one of their pre-determined scripted responses?
I remember when I worked for a major utilities brand many years ago, we were very proud of our customer charter, not least our commitment “to respond to all customer enquiries within 10 days”. Now this was promised in the age when most communication was by postal letter. I was most intrigued on visiting the part of our business that dealt with customer correspondence one day to discover that the department was designed to do exactly this – to answer letters by day ten – which meant that they wouldn’t even look at them until day ten. They openly admitted that they could answer most requests on the day they arrived, but because the standard was set as ten days, the system was designed to meet that commitment – nothing more, nothing less!
I’m sorry, but ‘10 days’ to reply may have been acceptable in the paper age, but not in the online age
Troublingly, nothing seems to have moved on. I recently emailed them and their response suggests the brand is still using the same process, even though the medium has changed – I got an automated response saying they would aim to get back to me within 10 days. Now, I am sorry, but while 10 days may have been acceptable in the paper age, customers’ expectations in this online age are much more immediate.
One of the reasonings behind the current debate about sales and marketing functions getting closer together is that we can all too quickly forget that marketers are responsible for the whole customer journey. I recently read a report by the private equity house Blackstone which stated that “over 40% of consumers have switched brands in the past 18 months; with evidence suggesting the same is true in business-to-business”.
If the old adage of the cost of recruitment versus the cost of retention still stands, this is mighty worrying. Perhaps alongside sales and marketing getting together, we should be asking our customer service colleagues to join us as well?