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A CRM First: The Customer Bill of Rights?
[March 08, 2006]

A CRM First: The Customer Bill of Rights?

TMCnet Contributing Editor

You get e-mailed all kinds of CRM-related things in this line of work, most of it not worth more than an offer from the family of some deposed African potentate to put $27.9 million dollars in your bank account, or a $500 Starbucks card.

Interesting things do pop up. Yesterday I was sent a proposed Customer Service Bill of Rights from CRM and marketing consultant Ernan Roman.

The Bill of Rights "is the first to suggest that our time, as customers, is valuable, and that consumers should be compensated, with a credit on their monthly bill, if they receive poor customer service," Roman writes.

He's got a point. "Time and again, national studies show that most consumers are not happy with their customer service experiences. My most recent survey showed that almost two-thirds of consumers -- 63 percent -- rated their most recent telephone customer service as negative or neutral," Roman says.

His research also shows that poor customer service isn’t good for American businesses, either: "83 percent of consumers who had a poor customer experience have negative perceptions of that company. 77 percent are unlike to recommend that company to others.  72 percent are so perturbed they are unlikely to buy from that company again."

Back in the early 21st century I remember advocating one way to improve customer service was to incorporate compensation for reaching (or avoiding) certain customer satisfaction benchmarks. Hey, we're living in reality, folks, people move based on their self-interest, and "customer service" is a great ideal, but if the extra work doesn't put any more shillings in your pocket, its priority slips accordingly.

Few companies ever worked out a way to do that, I think Enterprise Rent-A-Car factored customer satisfaction into its system for promoting employees, but I haven't heard of any company using actual customer satisfaction numbers to award bonuses. I still wonder why it isn't tried more often.

Anyway, Roman takes the opposite approach: Ask companies to inflict self-punishment if they do a bad job providing customer service.

It's a decent idea to talk about, although the obvious problem presents itself immediately -- "You mean I can get a lower bill if I witch and moan about how bad the customer service is?" The concept is a good one, that companies providing wretched customer service should be hit in the pocketbook, the only place that really hurts, but isn't this already the applied punishment for customer service that's really bad?

Customers simply shop elsewhere, as Roman's own research indicates, and the offending company soon either faces up to its problems or simply goes out of business.

But kudos to Roman for thinking outside the box and at least proposing something, offering specific benchmarks and criteria, like President Bush and the Republicans, who at least offer reasonable alternatives to the crippled Social Security mess and get shot down by people who don't have any better ideas of their own.

So without further ado, ladies and germs, Ernan Roman's Customer Service Bill of Rights:

As a customer I have the right:

1 – To have my precious time respected by the company’s customer service department in every situation and to have my issue resolved in a single phone call or e-mail by one representative who speaks clearly, is easy to understand and has access to my customer records.

2 – To be treated with courtesy and respect as a customer who paid money to the company with the expectation of customer service that cares about my individual needs.

3 – To have adequately trained representatives who know enough to actually solve my problem and who will provide me with a case number I can use for a credit if I do not receive great service, as well as the ability to call back or e-mail the same representative should the need arise.

4 – To receive quality customer service – including an easy-to-use menu with a minimum of clutter to quickly reach a representative – OR be compensated for my time and effort.

5 – To rapid access to a live person from a company with sufficient staff so I am not kept waiting on-hold for more than 10 minutes, or I will receive a negotiable credit on my next bill.  I also have the right to receive a negotiable credit on my next bill from the company if the first customer service rep does not have my records or cannot solve my problem and has to transfer me.

6 – To receive a negotiable credit on my next bill from the company if I have to speak with more than 2 customer service representatives trying to resolve my issue.  I also have the right to receive a negotiable credit on my next bill from the company if I ask for a supervisor and none is available.

7 – To receive a negotiable credit on my next bill from the company if I am billed incorrectly and I have to call or email to fix the problem, or I am given the wrong information to fix my problem by any of their representatives, compelling me to call back or send another e-mail.

David Sims is contributing editor for TMCnet. For more articles please visit David Sims' columnist page.

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