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Customer service doesn’t (always) matter

By Andrew Dalglish -

I recently visited a major carpet retailer and had perhaps the worst customer experience of my life.  I was in a rush…they were just going to finish their coffee.  I had found the perfect carpet…they strongly disagreed.  I needed the carpet fitted as soon as possible…they might be able to do something in 6 weeks.  “Vote with your feet” I thought.  And I did.  I walked down the street to a conveniently placed competitor whose customer service was the polar opposite.  “Outstanding” I thought.  Then I walked straight back up the street, swallowed my pride and struck a deal with my tormenter.  You see, they had the carpet I wanted.

Unpleasant as it was, this experience highlighted an important lesson applicable to both B2C and B2B environments.  The received wisdom that excellent customer service is central to success doesn’t always hold true.  Sometimes customers are willing to accept poor service because some other factor simply matters more to them.  Putting questions of morality and personal pride aside then, what sets a company apart is its understanding and delivery of these factors.

That’s why good research is always found at the core of a successful marketing strategy.  But here’s the trick.  Don’t simply ask customers what motivates their actions – often they are unable or unwilling to articulate this.  Instead, find out how the market feels about yourself and competitors in three respects:

  1. How satisfied are they in overall terms?
  2. How satisfied are they with various elements competing offers?
  3. How does each customer actually behave?

Then run some correlation statistics to identify relationships between these variables and the factors that really drive behaviour become apparent.  The results are often surprising.

Read more about our approach to business-to-business (B2B) customer satisfaction surveys.

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