Poor Customer Service is the Real Competitor

“Although your customers won’t love you if you give bad service, your competitors will.” – Kate Zabriskie

If one pays close attention to the quote, the title of this exposition would clearly explain why poor customer service, is the real competitor for all companies. If a company were to question its employees or others as to who they believe to be a competitor, the most obvious answers would be companies in a similar industry, selling similar products and or services. While this is true, what is also true is the fact that a company could be its own worst competitor by not being able to gain or retain customer loyalty. A lack of customer loyalty would be a company’s biggest competitor, which comes about by shoddy and low standards of customer service. Hence, while being aware of your market competitors is a good idea, today comparing your company to a competitor does not suffice. Customers do not hop from one company to another just for a lark – they do so only when they do not receive proper treatment and their needs and expectations go unmet.

A company’s customers would be customers to other businesses and services too, and as they go through their day, they might hear things or be treated in a way that goes against their expectations. It is for a company to decide whether it would want to be one in the crowd by offering poor customer service, or stand out through service excellence. What a company should aim for is that its customers feel pleased with each interaction, and make up their mind instantly to return to the company. Poor customer service makes customers move away from a company, and since they would continue to require certain products and services, they would look for another company to get those offerings. It is obvious then that a company’s real competitor arises internally in the form of slovenly and poor customer service, and external factors are usually not at fault.

Even one instance of poor customer service can make customers cautious and not trusting – which would affect their assessment of choices of companies. Such customers then feel that a company is unfairly biased against them, and would possibly be treating other customers a lot better. Over time, these feelings become so pronounced that customers leave a company for another that would treat them well. Customers that leave, carry negativity and annoyance for a company, spreading it others via personal interactions, online comments, and social media activity. This in turn could prevent some prospective customers from becoming actual buyers, and could lead to lowered engagement and emotional attachment from other existing customers. Customers who feel that they received poor customer service, may not leave immediately, but might wait out with a company giving it only a bare minimum business, until the find a suitable business partner to start an association. Such customers leave at the first opportunity they get, and would do so without warning or feedback, giving a company no time to make amends or cover the loss it would incur.

Research and studies have shown that companies can improve their current and future standing and profits through service excellence, and the converse would be true as well – that is lowered profits through poor customer service. Today customers seek emotional ties and connections with companies, and the best way for companies to forge such bonds with customers would be through top class customer service since doing so makes a company seem a lot more professional and ‘attractive’ than its competitors. Having a customer base of loyal and profitable customers is what all companies dream of today, and the best of service is the shortest and surest route to gain such customers. Loyal customers ‘stick’ with a company in the worst of times, are always ready to help a company, and would be willing to pay more for the same products and services even if they were available with some other company for less.

As mentioned, customers today have an increasingly greater number of choices, have more and easy access to information, and additionally their lives are busier than before. All these factors have made customers more demanding and less tolerant of poor customer service, and it is the responsibility of companies to use customer service as the tool and method of distinguishing themselves from their competitors. Of course, not all companies are able to provide consistently high levels of service, which in turn lowers their sales and profits owing to a drop in customer satisfaction levels. We know that today there are a number of companies offering similar products and services, which in turn has made it tougher for customers to understand which company to buy from, leading to a loss of loyalty. Customers would buy products that would catch their fancy at the time, and then move on to another company selling a different item that they might need / want at another time. Loyal customers however, buy from the company they feel connected with, and would not buy from any other irrespective of offers, incentives, and pricing. Customer service is a clear differentiator today – whether it is great or poor customer service – depends on the effort and ability of a company.

Businesses today depend on their internal ability to meet and exceed customer expectations, in an effort to get repeat and increased business from existing and new customers. Companies that place a strong emphasis on top class and friendly customer service are usually the ones to find greater success. Service from a company would be through the employees of a company, and hence they must be empowered and trained to make a difference and offer service excellence. Employees must understand why quality service is imperative, and how poor customer service can ruin every effort a company may have made in the past to attract and retain customers. They must have relevant and attainable goals towards the end of top class service, and serving as a path to make right decisions in favour of customers. Employees must realize that every interaction is an opportunity to win customer loyalty and improve the reputation of the company, and poor customer service can be the undoing. Employees must first, aim to be the brand ambassadors by delivering top value to the customers.

Everyone in a company must understand that their one true and most formidable competitor is poor customer service, which pushes customers to seek new companies and partners to engage in business. Company policies and procedures must serve only as guidelines and directions for employees, and must not prove to be reasons for why customers would not get what they want and need. While a company would need to secure its business and financial goals, the interests of its customers must be foremost, and employees must know when and how they can make decisions to ensure the happiness of customers. For customers, poor customer service is anything they receive from a company, which does not add value, and does not give them what they would expect. SLAs and expectation setting with customers is extremely critical and hence, must be established at the start of the relationship.

Poor customer service would be anything that ends with customers feeling dissatisfied, and angry with a company, especially when what customers expect would be well within their rights. Improving customer experiences forms a large part of moving towards and providing better service. Companies can do so by making consistent efforts in understanding their customers and making provisions to ensure they feel valued, important, and special with a company. Can your company safely say that it never metes out poor customer service to its customers?


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