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Delighting Customers/Exceptional Customer Service Critical? Nope. Myth!

De-LIGHT is not necessary to be a great company in customer service

Delighting customers is a path that will only work for less than 2% of companies, or even less depending on niche. You aren't Zappos. You can't ever be Zappos, so don't try. The really uncommon customer service idea is this: Do the basics well. It's that simple.

You won't get huge headlines, but you'll gain and keep your customers year after year.

Sadly, what we hear about in news and online is the exceptional successes, so we end up thinking incorrectly about what works and doesn't work for most companies, and what is sustainable in terms of customer service practice. SOME companies -- in fact the one in one thousand companies (like Zappos) that succeed by delighting customers are so rare that we should not even consider emulating thing.

There's a sense among those that tend not to be involved in the running of businesses to believe that exceptional customer service, or delighting customers is critical to the success of a business, and that it is in the interest of each business to pursue the goals associated with those ideas. It's simply not true.

This, and similar myths come from an overly simplistic understanding of customer behavior which, by and large is falsely based on one's own experience THINKING about customer service, rather than looking at BEHAVIOR. We often think we WILL do something if faced with bad service, or even great service, but it turns out that the relationship between what we believe we may do (or what others may do) and what we ACTUALLY do is not as strong as you'd think. We may not have the direct research to show this regarding customer behavior (it's hard to tell) but we do know from social psychology research that what people say they will do in given situations often does not reflect what they actually do.

There is SOME supportive research on this issue at Harvard Business Review but as with all customer related research we cannot and should not “believe” the conclusions unless we can verify the research methods and logic are correct, something that cannot be done without paying for the ability to read the whole article. Here's a short quote:

Two critical findings emerged that should affect every company's customer service strategy. First, delighting customers doesn't build loyalty; reducing their effort—the work they must do to get their problem solved—does. Second, acting deliberately on this insight can help improve customer service, reduce customer service costs, and decrease customer churn.

Here's a few things to consider about this myth:

  • If every company on the planet “delighted” customers, the competitive advantage of your company (if there is indeed any based on delight) would be gone, of course.
  • Clearly the reason why companies do NOT offer exceptional service or believe in delighting customer is because they don't have to, and often it does not result in higher profits. In fact, the more you invest in achieving unrealistic goals in customer service, the worse your bottom line gets. So, these major companies aren't stupid. They are practical. It's business.
  • Some businesses SHOULD “delight”. Entertainment environments, for example, should be investing heavily in superior customer service and delightful environments. The same for hospitality industries at the upper end where people are actually paying a premium to be delighted. If you are a Comfort Inn, there will be NO return. If you are a plumber, not so much. you really don't have to leave a mint in the washroom after you unplug the toilet.
  • If “delight” and “exceptional service” don't really add to most bottom lines, what IS important? Simple. Don't screw up, and if you do, make sure you have good recovery methods. Minimize the screw ups and their severity. You only have to be perceived as just a bit better than your competitors, and it's all about perceptions, not objective realities.


About Company

Bacal & Associates was founded in 1992. Since then Robert has trained thousands of employees to deal with angry, hostile, abusive and potentially violent customers. He has authored over 20 books on various subjects, many published by McGraw-Hill.


Robert Bacal

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  • Casselman
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