What Is The Customer Service Gap?
The customer service gap, and in particular the customer expectation management gap (outlined by Parasuraman et al, 1985) is a model that encourages companies to address the difference between their customers’ expectations and management’s perception of the quality of customer service.
Two surveys are sent out at the same time, one to the management team of CompanyX, and another to their customers. The aim of the survey is the same for both recipients, to ask “What standard of customer service do you expect from CustomerX?“. Management return with an average of 9/10, whereas the customers say 4/10. This could be for a multitude of reasons (which we will get into later) but ultimately the issue remains that there is a perception deficit for CompanyX, which if not resolved will cause future loss of customers to competitors with higher standards.
When Does It Become A Problem?
Customer Service Deficit: As in the example given above, a customer service deficit is when a company perceives their customer service to be of a higher standard than what that their customers do. Perception is a very strong thing in business. If customers believe your customer service to be of poor quality (either because customer service is currently below standard, or has previously been publicly labeled as such) then regardless of how high a quality the actual service is, customers will assume that the quality will be poor and will rate the experience lower.
“Just 57% of respondents agreed that their experience is consistent no matter how they contact customer service” – Aspect Report
However, at least when you know there is a deficit you are at an advantage. Many companies are blind to the fact that the customer service gap is growing continuously and may not find out until it is too late.
Feedback Saves The Day
Simply put, the best way to reduce your customer service deficit is to listen to customers, take action in real-time and publicly celebrate when your customer service team succeeds.
It is common practice amongst leading customer-centric companies these days to survey customers after every customer service interaction. This is an extremely effective way to monitor your progress and thankfully is no longer just a practice reserved for the elite. With services like Feedbackly now available to companies of all sizes, it has never been so easy to get feedback directly from customers, analyze the data in real-time and make efficient, solution based decisions.
By asking customers one or two simple questions after each interaction with customer service, companies are able to combine quantitative data (smiley ratings, scale of 1-10 etc) with qualitative results (from questions like, ‘how did we do?’ or ‘how can we improve?’) so that action can be taken immediately and in areas that the customer values most.
Employee feedback is also a vital part of this process. Managers, customer service professionals and all other employees should be asked similar questions with internal surveys. Understanding how your own employees perceive the level of customer service can be extremely useful, and is important when developing your customer experience strategy. Improvements to customer experience need to radiate from the inside out, so the more aware that employees are, the better.
Perception Strengthens The Customer Experience
Perception is key. After actively listening to customers and successfully making effective changes to the customer service process, customers begin to trust in the brand more and will eventually start to become advocates for your service. This is the perfect time to build or rebuild perception. The most successful and innovative companies tend to use this positive momentum to their advantage and will promote the high standard of customer service, creating a global perception that they are amongst the best.
Industry leading companies like Amazon make a point of openly celebrating the success of their customer services, and proclaim to the world that they are a customer-focused company.
“It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” – Jeff Bezos, CEO Amazon
By combining high customer service standards with a strong public perception, Amazon have become the benchmark for customer-centric companies in the world.
The customer service gap is something that if left unchecked, could potentially damage your company’s reputation to a point where customers will avoid your product just to avoid the chance of a poor customer service experience.
“8 in 10 Consumers willing to pay more for a better customer experience” – Capgemini 2017
Thankfully the solution to the gap is simple; use feedback to listen to your customers, make changes that matter to them and publicly celebrate the success of your customer service. To find out more about how Feedbackly could help you avoid a customer service deficit, please feel free to get in touch or go to our website by clicking ‘Learn More’ below:[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]
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Jaakko is an award-winning CX professional and entrepreneur at Feedbackly, founder and community professional at the biggest entrepreneurial digital community in Finland – Yrittäjä.io. He is a notorious keynote speaker from entrepreneurial stories to day to day human communications and customer experiences.