This headline reads just as shocking as it was intended: How Speed Kills Great Customer Service
Kills it?! Wow. That’s quite a bold claim. Speed is one of the fundamental pillars of customer service, as I’ve pointed out before. Reading the article revealed the crux of their counter intuitive argument. Speed doesn’t matter if the customer still receives poor service (meaning rude, or ineffective). On that point, I think we can agree.
However, I want to take a step back and make a counterclaim. Service without the appropriate amount of speed is inherently rude and ineffective. Let me explain what I mean.
The Gallup poll cited in the article above states that 73% of customers who abandoned a previously preferred brand did so because of rude or incompetent service. In contrast, only 55% stated that slow service made them abandon the brand. However, that is only telling half of the story. Consider what incompetence looks like to your customers. It can certainly involve rude, mean, or lazy customer service personnel. However, it can also happen because speed and competence are tied together in customer service strategy.
Here’s another thought experiment. When we reach out to a company on a customer service issue, it’s not unlike reaching out to a friend. We’d be put off by a rude or thoughtless response written in haste, but we’d be just as put off by an answer that never comes, or comes too late. In other words, being slow means being rude.
Speed is one of the fundamental pillars of great customer service. One way to think of speed is as one of a series of pillars that supports great customer service, but another way to think of it is as the keystone at the top of the structure. Speed requires all four other pillars be in place. As you’ll also see, by combining all of the pillars towards making your service speedier, you’ll also be eliminating the issues regarding bad attitudes and incompetent service people. It might seem complicated, but it’s actually quite straightforward. Here’s what I mean by that, pillar by pillar.
Empowerment: The emphasis on the customer service strategy of employee empowerment on this blog hasn’t been an accident. It’s an attitude shift companies must embrace if they want to improve their customer service. As we have mentioned explicitly in the past, empowered employees are faster employees. They are able to respond on the fly to customer questions and complaints. Additionally, they will have the capacity to use their best judgment to make the customer happy.
Hiring: The fastest response in the world from a rude, uncooperative person will still be rude and uncooperative. That’s why hiring people who like people is a statement I stand by time and again. Everyone can benefit from training to improve their service skills, but people with the right attitude will have a shorter road to travel.
Social Economy: There’s a reason companies using Twitter for customer support comes up time and again. The speed of their responses makes it feel almost otherworldly. As soon as a complaint is registered into the digital ether, a responsive agent can respond. When they respond with actual help and support, it goes above and beyond for the customer. Understanding that customer complaints don’t often get brought directly to your door, and dealing with them where they exist instead, can take your service over the top!
Service Recovery: Making a customer who already feels they have been wronged by your company feel like you are taking great care of them hinges the most on striking the balance between speed and quality. A customer who has a problem with your company is already watching the clock. They’ve been wronged, and they want it fixed. That automatically means they’ve taken extra time out of their busy day to reach out to you. It would be rude to rush to an unhelpful, un-empowered action just to get them off your back. However, wasting their time with unimportant details, hassles, or worries will only make things worse.
The final point of the original article linked to earlier in this post doesn’t ignore the reality of speed: customers still demand it. Quality service won’t pick speed or competence. It realizes that both are required.