Why so Many Companies Fail to Deliver on Customer Service

It is disheartening to experience such a race to the bottom.

This past week I made three separate inquiries about a recent booking to American Express Travel, the last one on Twitter because I was hoping against hope… No response.

From a company where I have been a loyal customer since 2002. American Express refers to its cardholders as members. Is the yearly fee customers pay the only sign of that membership?

Membership alone is not enough

According to a new survey by J.D. Power and Associates#, membership — in the example is a club associated with a sporting goods retailer — is not the critical factor in achieving higher levels of customer satisfaction.

Rather, it is an outcome. Satisfaction is a result of good staff, contributing 30 percent on the satisfaction index for Cabela's.

Nearly two-thirds (62%) of Cabela's customers say they "definitely will"
recommend the brand, which is significantly higher than the report
average of 50%. In addition, 51% of Cabela's customers say they
"definitely will" repurchase the brand, which is higher than the report
average of 44% and higher than that achieved by the majority of the
brands included in the report.

Membership base should not be the only indicator of loyalty. Because if it is, a new service that focuses on creating and delivering better experiences will take that base. People talk.

Delivering results with confidence

Keeping promises already made helps an organization make better promises next. When a business bridges that gap, it builds momentum — and the people who work in that organization have confidence in every action because the business delivers.

Customer service made simple sets premium brands like the Ritz Carlton apart. And culture is a big part of setting the tone in companies that deliver.

As the (fewer) examples of good service demonstrate, organizations that see customer satisfaction as much more than a number, are quite deliberate about creating an environment where it is possible to be of service.

One of the notable parts of the conversation between Swisher/Mossberg and Apple CEO Tim Cooks at D11 was about how the technology company looks at statistics about its products.

It's not just about sale numbers. Storage facilities and garages throughout America (and increasingly the world, alas) are filled with unused products gathering dust and taking up space. Even in a cloud-based personal future, the tools we don't use are not much use to anyone in that value chain.

The three key metrics Apple CEO Tim Cook tracks to understand whether they are shipping the best
possible products, and customers are happy

  1. sheer usage
  2. customer satisfaction
  3. eCommerce transactions

Why so many companies fail to deliver on customer service

Culture is a big part of it. Where is the company focusing from the top down? Treating people as valued customers and guests is the equivalent of welcoming them with a
genuine warm smile.

Every industry, every organization has faced the need to apply staff reductions, and to do less with more in the last ten years. There's a conversation about market dynamics and the expectation economy here I won't get into at this time.

When it comes to customer expectations, however, organizations can do a lot to help empower employees, and customers with the tools to provide service on one hand and automate our own experience on the other.

The tools must work, though. If I did a paid heuristic of every site that breaks or otherwise sends you to a human being to fix a problem or answer a question, I would be a rich person indeed.

Automate everything — and do it well — except for culture. Systems can be upgraded, integrated, simplified, replatformed, you name it. Culture is a tough one to fix, because the wider the gap between promises made and promises kept, the lower the confidence it can ever be bridged effectively.

And rebooting the human spirit is a tough one to sort out.



Valeria is an experienced listener. She is also frequent speaker at
conferences and companies on a variety of topics. To book her for a
speaking engagement click here.