For 10 years, my friend and colleague, Scott Hornstein, has been doing an email responsiveness survey as a measure of customer service . The results are, like Scott, interesting and entertaining. (Less entertaining for some of the companies surveyed.)
Scott’s method is simple. He sends a very straightforward email query (essentially, “What is your policy on customer service email response times?”) to a list of companies based on
- The Financial Times’ Most Respected Companies
- Fortune’s Most Admired Companies
- The Reputation Institute’s Most Respected Companies
- Business Insider’s Most Hated Companies
The first three lists include Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bristol Myers, Microsoft, Berkshire Hathaway, Starbuck’s and Google, among others.
The last, which is a new addition this year, includes Bank of America, Dish Network, a handful of cable operators, utilities, and several airlines.
The results are eye-opening. I’ll let you read the numbers for yourself – links below – but it’s staggering the number of companies that fail this very basic test. There’s nothing complicated in Scott’s request. Nothing that could conceivably fall in between departmental responsibilities. And even if there was, there’s no excuse for not responding at all, which is the case for some firms.
The results make it clear that too many firms view customer service as a cost rather than an opportunity. It’s more than an opportunity; it’s sales, it’s marketing. It should be treated with that much importance.
I get that the web has made it so much easier for consumers and clients to contact large firms that problems that would never have risen to the level of a consumer writing a letter or even picking up the phone can now not only be inquired about with the click of a button, but can spread across social networks like wildfire.
The bottom line is that you have to walk the walk. If you’re going to participate in social media and content marketing – if you’re going to strive to create the relationship and more open communication – you have to be there to respond when folks come knocking, whether with simple information requests, service issues, or just good, old-fashioned raves about your product.
You don’t have to be perfect, but you do have to be present and you do have to respect you customers. It still shocks me that something so common-sensical could even be open for discussion.