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Keeping the customer satisfied


UK customers are more likely to complain about poor service than customers anywhere else in Europe.  A study of 11,000 adults across Europe found that 96% of people in the UK would complain if they were unhappy with the service they received.   This compares with the European average of just 67%.

The study, by Kelkoo, found that poor customer service, rude employees, poor quality products and delivery issues were the main reasons for complaints in the UK.  Gone are the days when we would ‘put up and shut up’.  Today’s customers know their rights, they are better informed and have more choice.  And in a highly competitive environment, it is far easier for customers to take their business elsewhere if they are dissatisfied with the service they receive.

So the business imperative for good customer service is clear.   Treat your customers badly and they will complain.  Deal with their complaints badly and they will leave you.  Worse, they will tell others about their bad experience.  

But there’s a positive side to all of this.  First, it’s not hard to get customer service right.  With some investment in recruitment and training, and with committed leadership from the top, you can create the culture, attitudes and behaviours required to deliver great customer service.  Second, all customer feedback (even complaints) is valuable and can be used to inform the development and improvement of your services.  Third, an unhappy customer can be turned into a happy and loyal customer if their complaint is dealt with properly.

I worked with a company recently where most customer contact was by phone or email.   Dealing with demanding, unhappy, confused and angry customers was the responsibility of a busy call centre staffed by a young enthusiastic team.  The team were patient and polite to callers but lacked some of the basic tools and techniques to really delight their customers.  I put together some top tips for this team.   Feel free to download these tips and pass them on to others.  Top Ten Tips for keeping customers happy

In today’s complaining culture it’s unrealistic to aim for 100% customer satisfaction.  But making even the most difficult customers happy is not an unreasonable goal.

World Economic Forum : More quotas for women

A few weeks ago I wrote about the CBI’s proposal that the UK’s top companies should have targets for increasing the number of women on their Boards.  Now, the World Economic Forum (WEF),  meeting in Davos later this month, has advised its strategic partners that one in every five of their senior executives attending the conference must be a woman.   Female quotas certainly seem to be fashionable at the moment.

Apparently women participants at Davos have never exceeded 17% of all delegates (for several years the proportion of women attendees was between just  9-15%).   According to the WEF Gender Parity Programme, which produced a report in 2010 on The Global Gender Gap, the introduction of quotas is a way of getting things moving.

The WEF has around 100 strategic partners (drawn from some 2,500 companies attending the event).  Strategic partners span all sectors and include companies such as Google, Barclays and Goldman Sachs who are represented at Davos by the highest levels of leadership.  I am sure most of these companies will have no difficulty in meeting the WEF’s new requirements regarding women attendees.  However, with less than three weeks to go to the Conference, I can’t help imagining that, for some of the strategic partners, the reaction to the WEF’s announcement has been one of panic, perhaps involving a frantic search for a female employee (any female!) who was willing and available to join the male posse and tag along to Davos at short notice. 

And of course, as I’ve said before, that’s the problem with quotas.   I accept the argument that, until we have improved the visibility of women in leadership roles and positions of influence, change will be difficult to achieve.  But forcing businesses to put more women at the top does not address the underlying issues relating to women and their development in leadership roles.   Quotas are artificial; they misrepresent the reality and often breed resentment and cynicism about the drive for greater diversity in business.   Perhaps the WEF sees this initiative as just one of a number of actions to address gender imbalance on a global scale.  I hope so – as a single measure, quotas are unlikely to be effective.  

See the WEF report here: WEF Women Leaders Report 2010

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