New Study Reveals Companies' Need to Rethink Customer Service Approach

| March 01, 2007

Could an idea as old and familiar as "good customer service" really be the next "killer app" for business? You bet, according to a January research study from Katzenbach Partners LLC, a New York-based management consulting firm.

According to the report, because the market for many goods and services has become increasingly commoditized, over-crowded and price conscious, customer service has become critically important as a potential source of strategic differentiation and profits. The challenge for most companies, however, is that they have an incomplete understanding of what constitutes good customer service and, as a consequence, their interactions with customers often leave a lot to be desired.

According to the report, some widely accepted customer service "best practices" actually undermine the customer experience:

  • Believing that the customer always comes first Ã.‚¬" Instead, managers should focus on putting their frontline employees first, so that they, in turn, have the resources and freedom they need to care for customers.
  • Basing call-center service on scripted responses Ã.‚¬" Scripts, according to the report, do more harm than good because they reduce the frontline's flexibility in responding to customer problems and requests.
  • Thinking about customer service as strictly a cost center Ã.‚¬" Instead, companies should look at customer service as a potential wellspring of innovative thinking and profits.
  • Relegating customer service to organizational silos Ã.‚¬"v Companies should instead place the responsibility for customer service on the company as a whole, involving not only the frontline, but managers and senior executives.

The study is based on interviews with customer service executives from companies across a range of industries as well as a telephone survey of more than 1,000 American consumers.

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