“Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.” – Andrew Grove
Your business has become successful and customers seem happy – great! However, you begin to rest on your laurels and as a result, complacency in customer service and your overall business ‘behaviour’ become commonplace. You know what – customers are going to notice and when they do, be sure that they will ‘punish’ your business for it. Becoming complacent with customers could kill a business and potentially threaten the very survival of a company. Customers move fast – they are unlikely to stick with a company that seems happy with what it achieved in the past. Customers would rather be with a company that evolves with their needs and the market conditions, and does not wait until it there is coercion to change in order to ‘fit in’.
Surveys and studies have repeatedly reported that customers stop doing business with a company because of slovenly customer service. The customers may not have any particular reason to be vexed but the sense of complacency in customer service is usually enough to turn them away. Complacent companies do not make any significant efforts to please customers, and as a result drive them away. It is hard as it is to attract customers, and even harder to get them to stay long enough to turn loyal – and being treated with complacency, would easily make them take their business elsewhere. If companies expect customers to be loyal, customers expect to be ‘rewarded’ with innovative products and top class service at all times. Complacency in customer service tells customers that the company no longer values their business – enough reason to walk straight to a competitor.
We have discussed about how some customers may complain, but most of them remain silent. The reason for silence could be that they are either satisfied with the service or simply biding their time until they can find another company to meet their needs. A company that does not make the effort to continually check with its customers about their feelings, whether the company is living up to their expectations, and what more it can do to keep them happy, will soon experience a rise in customer churn. By this stage, it becomes extremely hard to stop the spate of negativity and bring back the disgruntled customers.
Complacency in customer service is nothing short of ‘disorder or illness’ that creeps in to a company, often without anyone noticing. It results in customer service becoming a whim of employees and leaders, something that they do when they feel like, rather than it being a business imperative. For the demanding customer of today – this is a big reason to switch companies. In any case, a consistent drop in service and inconsistency in the experiences customers have can become a serious problem and threaten to damage the reputation of a company irreparably. With the popularity and usage of social media irate customers, lose no time in reporting their poor experiences and letting everyone know of the complacency in customer service of the company they were in business with. The repercussions of such comments and reports are hardly imaginable!
It is shocking then to note that despite the seriousness with which customers treat poor service, complacency in customer service seems rather rampant. Employees fall into a rut of doing things the same way daily and because of past successes or managing to resolve issues, begin to believe that nothing better can be done and that they are doing the best they can for customers. They begin to lack enthusiasm and energy, coming across as robotic and dull – traits that customers will pick up instantly. While creating great first impressions is important, the fact is that the customer of today refuses to rely solely on those. They expect to receive the same great service and have the same quality of experiences, as when they contacted the company for the first time. However, companies that may have allowed complacency to seep in will be ‘a far cry’ from what customers expect and will soon kill their business. Most companies probably do not realize that it takes at least 6-7 favourable instances to cover up a single poor one – customers do not forget ill treatment.
What are some of the things a company can do to prevent complacency in customer service? The most important factor to consider is that one instance of great service or even a history of great service will not suffice to keep customers happy and hence becoming content and complacent with achievements in the past could be a company’s undoing. It is prudent to work towards constantly raising the bar on service and proactively finding ways to keep customers interested and engaged. One of the top traits that prevent complacency in customer service is empathy. Service representatives that are able to empathize with their customers and see the issues from their perspective keep customers confident of the company’s ability to fulfil their needs. Given that customer needs and expectations never remain constant, empathy will ensure that a company remains aligned with the changing requirements and there would be no space for complacency to creep in.
Empathy for a customer’s problem would bring with it a sense of responsibility to ensure that the problems are resolved speedily and in a manner, which prevents their reoccurrence. Empathy would make every employee know that if a customer interaction requires action, it would be their responsibility to ensure that they follow up with the relevant team / person until the customer’s issue has been resolved. Customer service would then become a company-wide endeavour rather than the job of the customer service teams alone. Owning a customer’s problem or query irrespective of the department or team an employee may represent, will ensure that complacency stays out the door. Taking ownership would naturally then result in the deliverance on promises made by the company, irrespective of the team or department an employee worked in.
Customers want to stay with a company and feel connected with a brand. This cannot happen unless the company makes concerted efforts to enhance service and provide great experiences each time. Companies and their employees need to become more resilient and tenacious in their pursuit of service excellence, such that one poor or negative incident does not pull them down, rather goads them to improve. The ‘thirst’ for continuous improvement is a sure shot way of keeping complacency out of customer service. Companies that treat complaints and problems as learning opportunities are the ones better poised for success and build the ability to forge long lasting customer. The culture and desire for continuous improvement, ensures that complacency in customer service remains unheard of in the company.
With rising competition, there seems to be an unsaid expectation from customers – getting more from less. Less effort, less time, and low costs must bring them high standards of service, top quality products, and a continuous endeavour from the company to provide that ‘something extra’ without being asked. Companies must comply – it could be as simple an act as empowering employees to take spot decisions to ensure that customers do not need to wait. Instant and efficient responses tend to keep customers happy and as customers get happier, they would come back with repeat business and let others know of the great service they received. This causes a ‘ripple effect’, which in turn encourages employees to perform even better and go the extra mile for their customers. Complacency in such an energized environment would be hard to find. Whatever a company does with regard to its customers, becomes the things that the company would be known for. It could be awesome experiences or complacency in customer service – one would bring success, while the other would take the company down the path to failure at breakneck speed. The choice lies with you.