John Eklund, Pro Mach

Understanding Superior Customer Service

By John Eklund, Pro Mach | Permanent Link


When we embarked on creating ProCustomer, we had a lot of learning to do to get up to speed on truly understanding and documenting what it takes to offer superior customer service. We had a general idea that we were offering great customer service, but we never really deconstructed it to understand how we did it. Along the way we made some key findings in our “discovery phase” we thought would be worthwhile to share with you.

The Most Important Lesson

Starting right from the beginning we kept rediscovering something we intellectually knew but that really didn’t sink in fully until we really thought long and hard about it:

  • WE control customer service

As a company, we control it. There’s not a lot you can say you control as a company. The economy is out of your control, the weather is out of your control, what your competitors do is out of your control, your vendors getting you the correct parts is out of your control, your customers paying you on time is out of your control, foreign exchange rates are out of your control, etc. But you own your customer service experience and have all the power to make it great. That’s really powerful stuff.

Defining Superior Customer Service

Next, we needed to really hone in on what we wanted to offer. We knew we wanted to offer superior customer service, but what did that really mean? So we attempted to define it in the simplest of terms:

  • Superior Customer Service – A positive experience for customers that is consistently delivered so well they have no reason to switch to a competitor

At the end of the day this is what we were striving for – to create great customer service experiences with our customers every time we interacted with them that made it hard for them to consider another company. That should be the goal of every business.

Customer Service Facts

Next we found a few key facts that really made it painfully obvious why we needed to focus on customer service:

  • 65% of customer defections are controllable
  • 45% of customer defections are service related

These statistics were really powerful. Nearly half of customer defections are due to service, something we control! We started to realize that the customer experience had be our top priority and reflected in our work processes, structure and systems. Everything we do had to be focused on making the customer experience great.

3 Groups of Customers

Next we found some information on classifying customers that really stuck with us. Essentially customers can fall into one of three categories:

  • Advocates
  • Apathetics
  • Assassins

Our goal, as a company, is to have as many advocates as possible. Most customers fall into the Apathetics group where they’re satisfied, but not delighted. Assassins can bring us down and will tell other people about it. If we have a customer that’s an Assassin then we’ve probably given them several bad customer service experiences. Thinking about your individual customers and trying to identify which group they fall into is an eye-opening exercise.

The Customer Satisfaction Curve

The next thing that really opened our eyes was understanding the customer satisfaction curve – shown below. Understanding that in between the extreme cases of Assassins (on the lower left) and Advocates (on the upper right) were over 90% of our customers (Apathetics) was pretty powerful, as was the realization that it takes A LOT to move a customer from an Apathetic to an Advocate:

(Source: Corporate Executive Board, Climbing the Service Curve, 2003)

Creating Superior Customer Service

Now the last step was creating superior customer service. While our ProCustomer Attributes are well-documented, we didn’t start with those and instead had to focus on high-level points first before we could really get down to the tactical level. With that understanding here’s what we identified as the critical points to deliver a truly superior customer service:

  • It had to be unique to our core strengths
  • It had to have complete organizational support and active participation
  • It had to revolve around profitable product and service offerings
  • It had to be consistent – communication, behaviors, products and service
  • It had to emphasize continual relationship building – both internal and external
  • It had to begin with an understanding of both our customers’ and our own business’ requirements for success
  • It had to focus on constantly communicating those requirements to both our team and our customers

So that’s how we got started on ProCustomer. There were a lot of other steps in the process and a lot that came after this, but these were our early lessons that still ring true. We hope you enjoyed this peek into our discovery process.

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