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Are Customer Service Commitments Just Nice Words?

Pick up any business publication and you can’t miss the numerous articles on mission statements.  Books on the topic abound, consultants offer services—the economic downturn seems to have left many organizations soul searching, questioning their purpose, focus, and value.

Service and support organizations are not immune from this, and we’ve heard several companies thinking anew about customer bills of rights and service commitments.

CCC members recently debated the value of even creating a service commitment in the CCC Customer Experience Forum, and we see two camps emerge:

1. Those who are in favor of explicitly publishing high standards and expectations for both customers and staff.

2. Those who prefer action to statements—living the right philosophy, not spending time mincing words.

It’s an interesting debate that I think accurately reflects the frustration and concern that service and support executives have today as the service organization is increasingly billed as a competitive differentiator yet quality scores are leveling and first contact resolution stagnating.  Aside from taking internal steps to improve service, companies increasingly want to market their customer-centric philosophy to customers.

I tend to side more with the latter camp—live a statement, don’t just talk about it.  But I can say that CCC has seen an interesting bill of rights that is not just catchy and clever but downright actionable.  It’s this: Ask Once.

Only two words, so you may wonder where all of the lengthy commitments to the customer are, where the employee morale booster is.  Yet the company that uses this as its service commitment, Nedbank, finds this statement to be both tangible and actionable—no eye squinting or dictionary required.

For the customer, inherent in the statement is customer stewardship, issue resolution, and effort reduction.  For staff, inherent in the statement is action, responsibility, and accountability—in a way that is best tailored to the customer’s situation.

Nedbank’s service commitment happens to be trademarked, so alas, you can’t copy it.  But if you want to create a similarly actionable bill of rights, CCC recommends following these principles: 

  • Keep it concrete—Focus on actions, not outcomes.  Outcomes are highly variable and very difficult to guarantee, but actions clearly set expectations for both customers and staff as to what the right steps are.
  • Keep it concise—Forsake detail for clarity.  “Customer bill of rights” implies a long, multi-section document, but such documents are difficult to recall let alone act on.  Prioritize the key message you want to resonate.
  • Keep it memorable—Ensure the message is easy to relate to and understand.  Think advertising jingle.

 What’s your stance on the value of customer bill of rights?  CCC members can Continue the discussion with other companies here.

Comments from the Network (1)

  1. Customer Service Buzz » If VOC and NPS Work, What’s the Hold Up?
    on November 4, 2010

    [...] Lastly, Lara’s key takeaway for tw telecom: after their first batch of NPS results came back, employees simply said “so what?” and “what’s in it for me?” That’s perhaps the biggest hurdle, but one most necessary to overcome. Lara said the change was driven by action and commitment – it wasn’t a one-time fleeting idea; VOC and NPS became a cultural focus. From a knowledge management portal to developing appropriate incentives, customer centricity wasn’t just another consulting buzzword, but a new way of life for the organization. [...]

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