Great customer service is an ideal that is so frequently bandied about in companies that it should go without saying, right? The truth is that the time and energy that companies invest in this area is often what separates the high performers from the low performers.
Seventy-nine percent of respondents from high-performing companies think about how to help improve their customer experience on a regular basis, compared to just 69 percent of low-performing companies, according to the Customer Focused Organizations Pulse Survey of 607 respondents conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp).
The study defined high-performing organizations on the basis of their performance over a span of five years. The specific factors measured were revenue growth, market share, profitability, and customer satisfaction.
"What surprised me the most was the size of the gaps between high- and low-performing companies," says Carol Morrison, senior research analyst for i4cp.
The gaps widened when respondents were probed further about their organization's customer-focused strategies. Morrison cites that 86 percent of high-performing companies say they keep promises to their customers, whereas only 64 percent of low-performing companies do the same. In addition, 18 percent of high performers compete on the basis of low prices as compared to only 6 percent of low performers.
Another big consideration when it comes to great customer service is having a philosophy that is preached and practiced from the top-down, starting with leadership. Forty-two percent of high-performing companies have an internal communication plan in place to ensure that customer insights are understood by everyone in the organization as compared to just 17 percent of low-performing companies. Similarly, 56 percent of high performers reinforce customer awareness and respect throughout all levels of the organization versus 33 percent of low performers.
"High performers communicate with customers regularly - they ask about their needs and about the quality of service they've received," says Morrison. "Internally, they share customer satisfaction data companywide and they work to make sure that employees understand their customers' insights."
She adds that, even in the HR arena, high-performing companies train employees to be responsive to customers, and then reward and recognize these behaviors.
In terms of social media, 20 percent of high-performing companies utilize it to communicate with customers versus 12 percent of low-performing companies. Sixty percent of high performers also survey their end users annually to assess the quality of their products and services versus 33 percent of low performers.
High-performing companies have had to embrace organizational change with the advancements in technology, notes Morrison. "Companies are certainly exploiting many new pathways that have become available to them to maintain contact with their customers, to sample customer opinions, and to extend offers and incentives," she says.
In terms of what companies can take away from this survey, Morrison offers that it "delineates the metrics that a company can use to assess its efforts in focusing on customers." The data in the survey can also be used as a benchmarking tool so leaders can compare their companies to others, she says.