Who Can Break the Spell?

Since I’m currently blessed with a four year-old princess and sharing her internal realities, I’m bang up to date on all my Disney and fairy tales. I’d forgotten how many of her role models fall prey to malevolent magic. Their lives interrupted either by a change of form or the deepest of sleeps.

Re-examining the findings from NewVoiceMedia’s 2013 consumer survey on the effects of good and bad service, I’ve concluded the only reasonable explanation is that organisations remain bewitched and are in desperate need of someone to wake them up. Although I suspect they will need someone being more than charming to break the spell.

The survey says 50% of consumers are quitting brands each year which equates to a price tag of £12bn lost revenues. Given how tough it has been since the ‘Great Recession’ of 2008, I just wonder what leadership teams have been discussing as their response.

Clearly cost cutting has featured heavily. It always does since the Finance team pull the alarm first in a crisis and that is naturally their solution. But now we are almost five years on, it remains baffling why customer retention has not become the primary goal. In times of hardship, is it not instinctive to conserve what you have? Apparently not.

So what are organisations still doing to squander their most precious resource?

Well it’s all down to the kind of behaviour I’m currently trying to instil into my four year-old. Being polite and saying thank you. Ignoring them are the top reasons why customers leave. Maybe not surprising if these are what we were taught as being important in early life.

Thus 28% of customers leave a brand because they ‘feel unappreciated’, while 22% are ‘put off by rude or unhelpful staff’. As parents we would blame it on poor upbringing. As business people we would blame corporate culture. Same point, just different language.

The rest of the reasons for customer churn are a lack of organisation. Is this the equivalent of a ‘messy bedroom’? Anyway, we find that queues, handoffs and ignorance are the culprits. Rather depressingly these terrible triplets have been top of the ‘naughty’ list forever.

Maybe today’s spell breakers using cloud magic will make headway so that the drudgery of queuing disappears (16%) and we are matched with the right person (16%) with the right knowledge (16%). It is surprising how many ‘messy’ customer journeys are allowed to remain without challenge.

And for the record, ‘hanging around’ is particularly irksome to males over fifty as the survey identifies them; otherwise known in more popular behavioural terms as ‘grumpy old men’.  Less than five minutes on hold is their threshold.

Their grandchildren (16-24 years old) may be more forgiving in terms of waiting for your attention, but in some ways are more dangerous.  One in three will share their experience of poor service online. Mind you, the rest of us are not that far behind. One in five will post a negative review online.

Does it matter? Increasingly so says the evidence. The weekly parade of brands suffering exposure in the social media spotlight shows the folly of irritating customers with poor service. Those that are consistently poor suffer the corrosive effect of being seen negatively; a huge drag on maintaining positive branding. Even within the smaller scope of offline personal networks, poorly performing service brands suffer as a quarter of us retell friends. However all this amplified criticism affects others one thing is clear. Half of us leave the offending brand as a result.

But as in all good fairy stories, there is a certain morality. The wicked will eventually suffer and the virtuous are recognised as such. So too in this world. Brands that get service right enjoy an upside.  After a positive customer experience, women are more likely to tell others. Men typically express their gratitude by using the service more. My own tracking of social customer service behaviours confirms that a significant proportion of well treated customers will offer praise when duly earned.

While all of this insight is great to hear, none of it is breaking news. Sadly the slumbering continues and it seems spell breakers remain rare. Is this just undue impatience on my behalf or should I be more content to let this modern day story unfold in its own time?

Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Martin Hill-Wilson
Martin Hill-Wilson


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