I read the most disturbing article recently about one of the major airlines deciding to focus on Customer Service as it was costing the airline over $1oo million each year in complaints and refunds to disgruntled customers. It was particularly sad as it looked from the outside that the motive for Customer Service was loss of money (cost savings) rather than happy, fulfilled customers.

The more I thought about this article, the more it dawned on me that businesses view Customer Service from the wrong angle. Saving costs and linkage to customer service is a very short term strategy and one almost certain to fail. As you reduce the costs associated with the customer to a level where the successes get smaller and smaller what happens next? Focus will move from Customer Service to something else and back comes the cost.

Is Customer Service activity really just masquerading cost savings? Are companies who pronounce so loudly that they are all for the customer just trying to reduce what they give a customer? Have we all moved so far away from how we should treat each other (customers and neighbours alike) and just reverting to generic policy & procedure type rhetoric?

Then there are the loyalty programs - truly customer centric companies do not need such gimmicks as they know that the customer will not be leaving them or recommending someone else any time soon. Loyalty programs are the 'lock them in' programs that allow for all poor customer experience to be traded off for monetary reward….. it's sad how it has got to this.

My real estate agent has locked me in for life. His brand of service, loyalty and expertise has ensured that I will always use him for moving and buying. Similarly the recruitment agent I use and the car salesman where I buy my cars. All of these individuals have changed companies that they work for but I never worry about the brand on their business card or the Mission Statement that greets me when I meet them in their office. What brings be back is utterly brilliant customer service.

Let me give you a challenge for the next year. I want you to look at your business and your revenue forecasts and have a sales target in each month for 'loyalty'. What I mean by this is that there should be a silent sales person working for your business that is driven by truly great customer service. Get this right and they will outsell any of your current staff - hands down!

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