Posted on 02 Jul 01
A recent article in InterActive Week, caught my attention as it delved into the realities of customer service. The contention of the article was that although everyone talked about customer service, no one seems able to do anything about it.
As the article stated, "Despite innovations in customer care and electronic billing and payment, most companies interact with their customer base just as they did 20 years ago. The customer calls to place an order, the provider mails a bill, the customer mails a check and, if problems crop up, the customer picks up the phone."
Ring a bell anyone?
But even more disconcerting are the results of a survey by Jupiter Media Metrix relating to the state of business-to-business (B2B) customer service. Apparently many companies have set up online customer service channels, encouraging users to try them, yet ignoring the entirely.
Jupiter's research found that only 41 percent of B2B companies answered basic e-mail inquiries within six hours. Only half of those answered accurately, and 29 percent didn't bother to respond to e-mail at all.
In today's economy, loaded with opportunities (I don't like the word problem), why would anyone disregard an inquiry -- let alone destroy a budding online relationship?
One-third of B2B companies fail to list a toll-free support number on their Web sites, the Jupiter survey found. While 65 percent say they offer online self-service, all but 2 percent are stagnant FAQ pages. Companies want customers to use the less-expensive online resources, but if those resources are thin, the message comes through loud and clear: Buzz off.
And this is in B2B — the land of sophisticated users and big-ticket transactions. What does this portend for individual consumers.
The real irony is that companies are failing to realize the potential bottom-line impact of online service. By pushing routine customer care traffic to the Web — 80 percent of inquiries involve things such as address changes — live service representatives can concentrate on trickier questions.
Are you living up to your customer's expectations in the Internet world?
Jack Burke is the editor of ProgramBusinessNews, president of Sound Marketing, Inc. and author of Relationship Aspect Marketing and Creating Customer Connections. For more information, or to contact Jack Burke, call 1-800-451-8273 or visit http://www.soundmarketing.com