This is No Time to Skimp on Service
February 27, 2009 ‐ 0 comments

customer-servicesThink of the last time you encountered an exceptional customer service experience.  It may have been a bank teller, a hotel concierge, or even a grocer who helped you locate the perfect produce.

Unfortunately, if business analysts are to be believed, you may be clinging to that memory for some time. As companies look to scale back wherever possible, the cost of customer service reps is likely to come under close scrutiny.

Ostensibly, it makes fiscal sense to cut service-related costs – mostly by eliminating face-to-face customer touchpoints. The already spartan European budget airline RyanAir is about to get even more ecomonical, as the company vowed yesterday to cut all ticket counters by the end of the year and implementing a strictly online check-in process.

We’ll acknowledge that the RyanAir example is neither surprising, nor much of a loss, as the airline was never known for offering a particularly commodious experience. Instead, it’s the companies with established track records of customer satisfaction that stand to lose the most if they start cutting back on service.

So they shouldn’t. For companies like Ritz Carlton and Lexus, good service simply isn’t optional – it’s the cornerstone of their brands and a source of major customer loyalty. And we don’t believe that exceptional service need be confined to luxury brands: just look at Trader Joe’s, or Amazon.

Let’s not forget that there are other ways to economize. Take USAA, for example, who cross-train reps so some 60% of the agents who answer investment queries can now respond to insurance-related calls. Through retaining and retraining, as the concept might be called, companies avoid layoffs while maximizing employee productivity. After all, great CSR’s are worth their weight in ROI.

We’re inclined to agree with BusinessWeek’s sentiment that service is critical right  now: The best performers are actually doing more to safeguard service in this recession. That’s why we know we can rely on the UPS delivery guy doing his darnedest to deliver your package on time, or a USAA operator answering your question promptly and thoroughly. Times are tough, but long live good service.

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