Knowledge Library

Some Really Scary Facts

Customer Service

It is really interesting to notice just how much emphasis is being placed nowadays on ‘The Customer Experience’ and the supposedly ‘new’ art and science of Managing the Customer Experience.

Yet there is absolutely nothing new about any of this at all. 
Occasionally I dust off a very old VHS video tape that I still have of the legendary Tom Peters (author of ‘In Search of Excellence – Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies’ - 1982) presenting a live auditorium seminar called “A Passion for Customers”.

Thirty years ago Peter’s energetic and enthusiastic advice to the global customer service sector was just as simple then as it is today; “Be nice to your customers and they will continue to buy from you”. Absolutely nothing has changed.

More recently I was privileged to see a presentation constructed by an incredibly energetic and innovative customer service strategic consultancy based in Cape Town, N’Lighten, (see 

In part of the opening sequence to N’Lighten’s ‘Winning Service Workshop’ the author and facilitator, Brendon Bairstow-Klopper draws our attention to several truly scary facts about the current state of Customer Service; and these scary facts are based on N’Lighten’s recent extensive regional (with international validation) research into the state of the service sector.

Here are some really scary facts to whet your appetite for positive change…

  • Only 25% to 30% of a company’s customers are truly satisfied. That means that 70% of your existing customers can be easily lured away by your competitors.
  • 96% of unhappy customers will never tell you about their dissatisfaction. They will simply walk over to your competitors at the slightest whim. That means that for every one customer who complains, 26 will remain forever silent.
  • 91 % of unhappy customers will never purchase from you again!
  • 70% of the reason why customers left companies had nothing whatsoever to do with the product… The reason for switching to your competitor was because of poor service.
  • The average business loses between 10% and 30% of its customers each year largely due to poor service.
  • It costs 8 times more to attract a new customer than it does to retain an existing one.
But here’s something positive….
  • 70% of complaining customers will definitely do business with you again if you resolve the complaint in their favour.
Like so many challenges in life and in business, the solutions to even the most complex issues are simple in their pure concept. Let’s face it. What customers really want is to have a truly memorable experience every time that they engage with us.

Regretfully, in the world that we live in and in the nature of many of the people that we employ, customer ‘Wow!” experiences just don’t happen by chance.

To deliver extemporary customer service consistently we need to design and craft the total customer experience as if we were charged with the responsibility of being the architects designing an iconic building.

The starting point is to ask customers what they truly want, need and desire and what it is that they aspire to. This means having to carry out on-going formal and informal research and to implement and deploy all manner of customer feed-back mechanisms in your organisation; at all customer touch-points.

What’s more, one has to be able to extract the raw data that research will provide and interpret it in such a way that it manifests as true Business Intelligence; the kind of insights that bring about radical changes in strategic thinking throughout the organisation; starting in the boardroom!

But fact-based change in organizational strategy is merely the beginning. To actually deliver ‘world class’ service, the entire organisation needs to understand the full implication of customer service and service delivery and how each and every employee plays a significant role in the process. Change management and on-going training are the essential elements necessary to inculcate organizational focus on customer service.

To be truly effective, customer service can't be something your business tries to do in addition to its other business operations. Rather, customer service excellence needs to be at the heart of everything your business does. If creating memorable customer experiences is key to your sustainability (which it is), making sure such experiences are standard across your company needs to be a strategic imperative.

Great customer experiences encompass every aspect and area of your business - from the advertising, marketing and branding, to the way your customers interact with your product or service and how they are treated by your staff.

Focused customer service research and training will certainly deliver improvements to your customers' experiences with your business, but to get the full benefit, you need to build customer service into your business strategy.

The ‘Holy Grail’ of Customer Service
When the boardroom truly understands the significance of ‘Customer Service’ in the context of today’s society and the broader business environment and when strategic and operational initiatives such as Research and Training and implemented on an organisation-wide basis, the real Return-on-Investment starts manifesting.

Tangible and measurable ROI will be rapidly found in these and other outcomes:
  • Sustainable business success that is less dependent on economic factors.
  • A deep culture of customer service across your entire organisation.
  • Improvements in efficiency and productivity.
  • A consistently positive customer experience across all business touch-points.
  • A seamless customer service experience.
  • Empowered employees that are willing and able to delight your customers.
  • A vastly improved reputation for putting the customer first.
In five years’ time how will we be able to identify those companies that have truly grasped the implications of the ‘Customer Service Ethos’? 
That’s easy. They will be the companies still in business…

Rod Jones – Lonehill, Gauteng. Tuesday 31st July 2012

© Copyright Strictly Reserved – may be reproduced if authors are credited and email or website contact details are published simultaneously and in the context of the article. With special recognition and thanks to Nathalie Schooling, CEO of N’Lighten for permission to draw on their seminar materials as the basis for this article.  See

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