“Customer service isn’t getting worse. Customer service is getting harder.” This was the message Barak Eilam, CEO of software provider NICE, shared at a recent conference in Las Vegas. How profound. And he’s right.
Surveys indicate that customers feel the service they receive is getting worse. A study by the W.P. Carey School of Business found that in 2013, customer dissatisfaction was 50 percent, versus 45 percent in 2011 and 32 percent in 1976. And yet companies are bragging in their marketing about the great customer service they provide!
Here’s my take: When it comes to customer service, the customer is smarter than ever. The best companies are becoming benchmarks for others—not just in their own industries but across industries. Companies such as Apple, Amazon, Zappos, Ace Hardware, Ritz-Carlton, Nordstrom and others consistently provide above-average service. They have demonstrated to the consumer what outstanding service looks like and have raised the bar. As a result, customers have begun to expect this level of service everywhere they go.
This makes it harder for less customer-focused companies—and that’s a good thing. Companies that really want to compete and stand out are being forced to rise to the example set by these customer-service leaders and provide a better experience. While keeping up may require some companies to make adjustments in the way they deliver service, it’s good for the customer—and in the long-run for business.