Dark Days Ahead for Companies That Fail Customers

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It's 2016, and there are more ways to connect than ever before. You would think customer service and customer care would be at an all-time high. Why, then, do so many customers feel they are at an all-time low? Customers are frustrated. Companies are using social networks to provide customer service, but they are failing.

Companies don't seem able to put the pieces together. They don't seem to understand that a customer with a problem is an opportunity to create a loyal customer who will stay with a company forever and recommend it to all their friends and contacts.

By treating customers without care and respect, companies basically are telling them they don't care. The result is that the customers don't care about those companies either. That can lead to a death spiral that will drag a company into a black hole.

"Take care of your people and they will take care of your customers," said Marriott founder John Willard Marriott.

That performance then will take care of the company's investors. This simple, but important lesson is getting lost in this high-tech age. Taking great care of customers is the only way for a company to succeed -- period.

In the old days, many people worked for a company their entire lives. The employees were loyal to their companies, which in turn were loyal to them. Today, many workers are not loyal to their companies. Just look at Verizon's strike as an example. Today, the worker/company relationship in many cases is adversarial. That's a shame. Few people work long-term for a company these days. Something valuable has been lost.

That same distance is now affecting customer relationships. Many companies are moving away from real customer care and customer service, replacing it with a much-less-satisfactory online experience either by text or email.

That approach works for a certain slice of the pie, but many customers want traditional customer care. Abandoning it has resulted in disasters -- yet companies keep going further down the same problem-strewn path.

The growing company-customer divide is hurting many firms, and they don't understand why. Many companies that take great care of the customer -- like Apple, which sells technology, and LL Bean which sells clothing -- continue to enjoy strong growth. They are there to answer a phone call, email or text with a goal toward solving customer problems quickly.

The benefits of good customer care are clear, so why are companies moving in the opposite direction? Why are they short-circuiting their success?

The companies that constantly do strong business are those that offer great outreach to their customers. Large and small companies that do this well have a great reputation. Following their example should be the goal of every company.

However, companies today increasingly appear to be relying on technology that creates a separation between them and their customers. The gulf has been getting wider, and it is a recipe for customer relationship disasters.

There are many factors to blame, but the bottom line is this: Companies that don't care about workers and customers don't have workers and customers who care about them. Period.

It starts with the company -- the choice is up to the executive leadership. Do the right thing, and your customers will love you. Do the wrong thing, and you'll kick off the beginning of the end.

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a wireless analyst, telecom analyst, industry analyst, consultant and speaker who has been sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry for 25 years. Email him at [email protected]

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