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Is Customer Service Killing Your Brand?

Temkin Group recently published the 2013 Temkin Customer Service Ratings, which evaluates 235 companies across 19 industries based on feedback from 10,000 U.S. consumers. Here are some of the high-level results:

  • USAA earned the top two spots for its insurance and banking businesses. Other companies at the top of the ratings are credit unions, Ace Hardware, Charles Schwab, Dollar Tree, Chick-fil-A, Sonic Drive-In, Hy-Vee, Costco, Trader Joe’s, Advantage, Publix, and H.E.B.
  • TV service providers and Internet service providers are awful, earning nine out of bottom 10 spots in the ratings.
  • For the second straight year Charter Communications took the bottom spot. The rest of the firms in the bottom five are Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Optimum (i/o), and CareFirst.
  • The following companies earned ratings that were 15 or more points above their industry averages: USAA (insurance and banking), Alaska Airlines, credit unions, Advantage, Kaiser Permanente, TriCare, Charles Schwab, and Bright House Networks.
  • Five companies earned ratings that were 15 or more points below their industry averages: Apple Stores, US Airways, RadioShack, HSBC, and 21st Century.

Why should marketers care about customer service ratings?

It might be easy to dismiss these ratings, or any other evaluation of your firm’s customer service, by simply viewing them as someone else’s responsibility. Your company probably has a customer service department and these ratings are clearly a reflection on their efforts.

Unfortunately, marketers can’t look the other way when it comes to customer service. If your role is to build a compelling brand that drives customers to your business, then you can’t ignore customer service. Here’s why:

  • Customer service defines your brand.

Are you spending money on advertising and marketing campaigns trying to get people to believe something about your company? Unless you’re targeted message is, “We don’t care,” then poor customer service will ruin whatever positive branding you were hoping to achieve. Remember this: a poor customer service experience leaves a more powerful and lasting imprint than a positive marketing message.

  • Customer service creates word of mouth.

When people are looking for help, they’re often more emotional than with other interactions. So poor customer service often creates a negative emotional response, which is a serious trigger for negative word of mouth. If you want to eliminate bad tweets and Facebook posts, don’t hire more social media specialists—fix your customer service.

  • Customer service provides key insights.

What’s not working well? What do customers really want? How do customers feel about the company? What makes customers angry, or happy? These are all questions that can be answered if you examine customer service interactions. Marketers need to invest in pulling insights from this rich customer touchpoint.

  • Customer service creates/breaks loyalty.

Banner ads, TV commercials, magazine spreads, and radio spots may bring a lot of people to your company’s front steps, by why bother if your customer service is pushing them out the back door. Rather than just generating traffic of prospects, marketers need to think about how they can retain more of the customers they already have.

The bottom line: Marketers should be very interested in customer service.

  Bruce Temkin, managing partner and customer experience transformist at Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting company. He is widely viewed as a leading expert in customer experience.

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