What’s the biggest customer service mistake a business can make?

What's the biggest customer service mistake businesses make? Read on for three opinions from Fifth Quadrant, PwC Australia and American Express.

Despite the increased proliferation of technology, one thing hasn't changed - customer service still reigns supreme. Here are three opinions from Fifth Quadrant, PwC Australia and American Express.

Some 66 per cent of the world’s consumers switched brands or businesses in 2013 due to poor customer service, according to trendwatching.com. Worse, 82 per cent of switchers said the brand could have done something to stop them. Clearly, businesses are falling short on customer service. What are the biggest errors? Here are three opinions from Fifth Quadrant, PwC Australia and American Express.

Dr Catriona Wallace

Dr Catriona Wallace

Dr Catriona Wallace

CEO, Flamingo and Fifth Quadrant

Ask a typical marketing exec how they regard customers and you will hear that their customers are segmented, put in pipelines, targeted, made captive, branded and given terms and conditions.

This legacy language and approach to customers is a remnant of the industrial revolution and the business schools’ applications of lessons learned from the military in the post-war boom.

“Business does not treat customers as individuals.” Catriona Wallace

These factors result in the most significant issues that businesses face around customer service – that business does not treat customers as individuals. Harvard’s Doc Searls says we are now in the Experience or Intention Economy, where a segment-of-one approach will be essential to the survival of enterprise.

We need to get customers out of mass segments and use human-centred design approaches to develop experiences for individual customers that create value for both the person and the business.

Professional Development: Identifying and managing customer expectations: gain an understanding of what customer’s value from a service perspective and how to identify their needs and expectations.

Better still, why not have the customer co-create the experience they want, in partnership with the employee? Customers will typically pay between 10 and 20 per cent more for experiences they have been involved in designing. Organisations with mature customer experience strategies will usually have revenue performance more than 20 per cent higher than organisations that do not.

Even the language around customer service needs to evolve. It’s about customers who are free, having awesome experiences, not just service, with a brand. And let’s go beyond the new marketing hype of personalisation where big data tries to predict a sales offer for a customer. Customers are, after all, human.

Nick Spooner

Nick Spooner

Nick Spooner

Leader for digital strategy, PwC Australia

Too many businesses simply forget about their customers and what they want. And yet in an ever-competitive world, service and experience are often your points of difference.

Despite advancements in technology over the last decade, the phrases “we don’t split bills”, “online purchases can’t be returned in-store” and “call centre hours are nine to five, Monday to Friday” are still far too common.

Businesses need to break down the informational and transactional silos that prevent them from delivering a connected and seamless experience. In short – put the customer at the centre of your business.

“Too many businesses simply forget about their customers and what they want.” Nick Spooner

This means designing products and services with your customer in mind. We know 90 per cent of Australian smartphone users access the internet via their device daily, so why build a website that doesn’t work on mobile?

But it’s not enough to think purely about customers as external consumers that use your services. It is equally important to think about your staff and employees.

Are your people equipped to be able to provide an exceptional service? Do they have access to the same services that your customers have? Can they relate to what your customers are experiencing? And, if so, are they empowered to make decisions that make the difference between a wonderful experience and a terrible one?

Identifying mistakes in customer service is the easy part – the challenge is putting your customer at the heart of everything you do and giving them an experience that surprises, delights, and leaves them wanting more.

Andrew Carlton

Andrew Carlton

Andrew Carlton

Vice-president customer service, American Express, Australia and New  Zealand

As consumer confidence remains cautious and consumers are spoilt for choice, businesses face increasing competition for their share of the Australian wallet. Never before has investment in customer service excellence been so important. But how many businesses realise it?

Two of the biggest mistakes some businesses make are not listening to customers, and not being there when their customers need them most. It’s essential to provide a unique customer experience by anticipating customers’ needs and expectations and exceeding them, every time.

It makes sense for us to select highly engaged and customer-focused employees and invest in their training and development. In our coaching we instil that every opportunity is a chance to build loyalty and advocacy.

“[The big mistake is] not listening to what customers want.” Andrew Carlton 

In the latest American Express Customer Service Barometer, it’s clear that Australians have high expectations of customer service and are prepared to put their wallets where their mouth is. They are happy to reward companies with good service standards.

The majority of Australians (72 per cent) will spend an average of 12 per cent more when they get good service. We see this with many of our customers; they vote with their wallets after they receive great service.

Globally, American Express Card Members who are highly satisfied with their service interactions spend 16 per cent more on their cards.

It simply makes good business sense to consistently invest in customer service, and make it a priority.

The experts

Catriona Wallace
Catriona Wallace has been a police officer, night club owner and academic. She is now owner and CEO of customer experience management consulting firm Fifth Quadrant, market research company ACA Research, and Silicon Valley-based analytics software company Flamingo.

She has a PhD in leadership and organisational behaviour from the Australian Graduate School of Management and was recently inducted into the Australian Business Women’s Hall of Fame. In 2013, Fifth Quadrant won the Telstra NSW Business of the Year award.

Nick Spooner
Nick Spooner leads digital strategy for PwC Australia. Before PwC, he led the transformation of eight separate businesses to form what is now Salmat Digital. Earlier in his career he was chief operating officer of ninemsn, chief digital officer of Network Ten and held senior roles with Singtel Optus and global consulting group Accenture. He has also chaired the Interactive Advertising Bureau Australia.

Andrew Carlton
Andrew Carlton is the vice-president customer service for American Express, Australia and New Zealand. He has more than 25 years’ experience in the financial services sector in the US, UK, Canada and Asia.

He has won awards for customer service in Canada and Australia. In 2014, American Express Australia won the Customer Service Institute of Australia (CSIA) Contact Centre of the Year. Carlton’s previous roles include general manager and vice-president of world service for Amex Canada and head of operations, Australian Banking Services, at Westpac.

Read next: Why quality customer service is back on the menu


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