Are You Falling Victim to the Customer Service Gap?

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The concept of the customer service gap may sound familiar as I have written about it before. The first version referred to the gap between you and your competitors. You want the gap to be wide. It means you are putting yourself further ahead of your competition and picking up market share.

The second version of the gap focused on narrowing the distance between you and your customers. The closer you are to your customers, and the more you are meeting their needs, the narrower the gap is between you and your customer. This also puts your competition further away from your customers.

Now comes the third version of the gap, which is the difference between how good a company thinks their service is versus what their customers actually believe they receive.

A number of years ago, I read an interesting report from Bain and Company that found 80% of companies say they deliver superior customer service, yet only 8% of customers agree. That is a surprising, almost staggering, statistic. Is there that big of a disconnect? Is the gap really this big?

There are other studies that have similar findings, although not quite as severe as the numbers from Bain and Company. Even if that number was cut in half, it would still be a problem. In a perfect world, there wouldn’t be a gap. In a truly customer-focused organization, you might even see the gap reversed. In other words, the customer perceives the service they receive from a company is even better than that company’s leadership believes it to be. Maybe that’s because that company won’t settle for anything other than the best, and is always striving to deliver a superior level of service, never settling for mediocrity, never resting on their laurels.

So, what can you do to avoid or eliminate this gap? Here are just a few ideas:

1. Survey your customers. This one is obvious. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. You can use several different survey questions and techniques but just consider this one suggestion. Keep the surveys short. You stand a greater chance of the survey being returned if they are short and take less than a minute or two to fill out.

2. Ask the customer directly, at the time they are finishing their interaction with you. This is a form of an “exit interview.” Again, keep it short and you’ll get more customers willing to respond.

3. Have leadership mystery shop your company. Don’t hire mystery shoppers, but have the executives actually pick up the phone and call their own companies. Find out how easy it is to get to the right person, how long they are required to hold while waiting for customer service, and more. In other words, have them play a simple version of “Undercover Boss.”

So, don’t fall victim to the customer service gap. What you hope your customers will perceive as good customer service, and how they perceive it, are two different things. Narrow the gap so that what you want your customers to experience is in fact what they experience.

Shep Hyken is a customer service and experience expert, award-winning keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling business author. For information, contact 314-692-2200 or www.hyken.com. For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs, go twww.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

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