What Is “Ideal Customer Service”?

Kate Leggett
Vice President, Principal Analyst
September 10, 2010

We’ve all heard about ideal customer service — the mantra of customer service vendors as they tout their wares. But what does this actually mean? Service at all costs (ideal for the customer)? Service at minimal cost (ideal for the business)? Or does “ideal” to a customer service manager mean the ability to deliver “good enough customer service” — where the cost of doing service is balanced with the ability to satisfy and retain a customer? Or is it something else — like providing a customer service experience that parallels a company’s business model?

Think about Saks Fifth Avenue — High-style, high-cost apparel. You would expect their customer service to be in line with their business model: Customer service on the customer’s terms — where you can arrange a phone call with a shopping consultant. You can talk with them now or later, at your convenience. You can email them and they will get back to you very quickly, or you can chat with them at any time of day or night.

Now think about IKEA — the provider of “affordable solutions for better living.” You shop at IKEA because you are comfortable with serving yourself — from pulling furniture off shelves to self-checkout to assembling them yourself. And, IKEA’s service mirrors their brand. They have exhaustive web self service in a multitude of languages, a chat bot, some email support and limited phone support. You are not disappointed with their lack of white-glove service because you would never expect it from IKEA — it is not their business model.

Take the analogy further — Your Saks Fifth Avenue shopper is not the same as your IKEA shopper or (fill in the blank of your favorite shopping site) shopper. These customers don’t expect to have the same shopping experience or have the same level of service at each of these stores. Companies need to know what their key value proposition is to their shoppers, and align their service offering with their business model, or brand.

This means a couple things for the customer service manager. He/she must understand the company’s brand and:

  1. Reflect it in the communication channels that are available to their customer base (ex., phone, email, web self-service, social channels etc).
  2. Reflect it in the service policies and processes that their agents follow.
  3. Reflect it in cost and satisfaction goals.
  4. Monitor and measure customer service expectations via traditional and social channels to ensure that they are in-line with the brand.

This would mean that the ideal customer service experience is one that reflects your brand. Thoughts anyone?

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