The secret of great customer service: Every customer counts

November 21, 2012 in Latest News

By Charles Pittaway, Managing Director of Softline Netcash

Charles Pittaway

Charles Pittaway

There’s a story about the owner of a fancy private art gallery in London, who was once asked why he went to the trouble of treating even the scruffiest student who walked through his doors with the same courtesy as a rich and well-known buyer.  “You never know who they’re going to marry,” he replied. “Or who they’re going to be.”

There are plenty of consultants out there who will give you exactly the opposite advice about customer service today. 20% of your customers account for 80% of your revenue, they will say.  Treat that 20% like gold: offer them special deals, ask their opinions, remember their birthdays and pamper them with golf days.  The other 80%? Do as little as you can get away with and hope they go away.

This is not really an exaggeration. Here’s a professor of management at Rice University in the US, approvingly describing what happens at a large bank:  “Though customer satisfaction is important, the goal is to increase customer and corporate profitability… First Union estimates that its ‘Einstein’ system will add at least $100 million to its annual revenue. About half of that will come from extra fees and other revenue from unprofitable customers, while the rest will flow from pampering preferred customers who might otherwise leave the bank.”  The rich pay less, and the rest pay more, in other words.

I suspect most people reading this article have experienced being on the wrong end of this calculation.  Whether it’s a bank, a cellphone company or a restaurant, we’ve all been overlooked in favour of someone with a bigger (apparent) bank balance.  “We’re only interested in your money,” these businesses are telling us. “The more money you have to give us, the more attention we will pay you.”

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