Are You Your Own Worst Enemy?

customer perceptionsWe’ve all been through it – it’s rarely a seamless process when making a change in your television or Internet provider.

Recently, I bit the bullet and decided it was time to make the switch. So after multiple phone calls to compare options, making the decision, and getting my 4-hour appointment window, the time finally arrived when the technician came out to actually get my new service up and running.

Overall, the process wasn’t terrible, but it also wasn’t great. There were two separate instances, once from each of the companies I was dealing with, where the customer service representative did something that all companies should be training its employees to avoid. So, what’s the Big Flaw? It was failing to change a customer’s negative perception during a moment of truth by speaking poorly about the company.

As I said, this not only happened once, but twice during this experience. Once from each of the companies!

The first instance was on the telephone with the service provider I was leaving. After getting past the numerous attempts to offer me something to stay, I was asked why I was leaving. The answer was simple – I was paying too much money for the Internet speed I was receiving, and another firm was offering me more for the same money. The rep agreed that the new deal was better than what they could offer and acknowledged their own product’s shortcomings compared to this competitor, going as far as saying he’d do the same, thus validating and perpetuating my own negative perception that I was getting an inferior product and that I was right in making the switch.

The second instance was with my new service provider. After the technician got the new service up and running, he was running through his checklist of items he is required to tell me so he could get his perfect score on the follow-up survey (which is a whole other topic). He said that if I had an issue, it would be better if I didn’t call customer service because it likely would be a headache to try to get a problem resolved, and to try their online chat feature on their website. Once again, validating a negative perception I had about the company’s customer service, despite what seemed to be a relatively smooth process thus far.

This immediately reminded me of a client that I’ve worked with in the past. This was a large company operating in the outsourced human resources (PEO) space. After conducting a Loyalty Assessment Program, we found that its customer base was highly polarized, with the key drivers being service and support related to service personnel behavior rather than operational service issues. Furthermore, we uncovered a definite image problem around perceptions that the company was not easy to do business with and not committed to service excellence.

The root cause of this issue was found when we conducted an Employee Mirror Survey, uncovering substantial morale and attitudinal issues. There was a huge gap between customer and employee perceptions, with employees significantly overstating the negative condition of service and support. This negativity was being projected onto customers by customer service representatives, resulting in the image problem that was polarizing customers.

These examples demonstrate how extremely important it is for front-line employees to understand the effect they have as ambassadors of the organization in either changing or perpetuating negative customer perceptions. Equally as important, organizations should know when employees are the source of these images. Placing an emphasis on these two critical areas will help retain customers and prevent you from becoming your own worst enemy.

Posted in Blog, Consumer Products, Insights, LRC Blog, Professional Services.

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