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Anna Papachristos | March 9, 2012

Climbing the Mountain of High Customer Expectations

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Customers may seem high maintenance, but in fact their high expectations are warranted. Every penny counts in today's economy, so consumers worldwide have come to expect nothing but the best from the companies they choose to purchase from. They expect only the best possible customer experience available, and rightfully so, says Bruce Temkin, managing partner at Temkin Group.

According to the recent Temkin Group Insight Report, the "2012 Temkin Experience Ratings," only 28 percent of companies earned a "good" or "excellent" customer experience rating. "Excellence isn't an accident. It happens from continuous, purposeful focus," Temkin says. However, most companies have yet to invest their energy in strategically focusing on customer experience.

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The ratings report is based on three dimensions of customer experience: functionality, accessibility, and emotional connection. Companies in the food industry, which require very simple interactions, stood out at the top of the list, while the more complex service providers remained at the bottom. Healthcare and Internet service providers rank significantly low on the list due to the consumers' low ratings across the three dimensions of customer experience, while cable and phone service providers also fared poorly--mostly likely due to failing to meet their empty promises.

"They'll put lip service to change, but they haven't come around and made the actual commitment to change," Temkin says. "It's not just an advertising campaign... In order to be good at customer experience, it takes hard work, and once you're done with the hard work, you can go out and tell customers how good you are."

Particularly, companies at the top of the rankings not only focus on customer experience, but on employee engagement as well. Temkin notes that companies can't deliver truly great experience if their employees are not engaged in the process.

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Customers have come to expect that companies will go out of their way to make things right. Yet, while companies can't live up to everyone's desires, they must learn from complaints and suggestions and figure out what's getting in the way of delivering on customers' expectations. "At the end of the day, whatever customer expectations are, you have to deal with it because that's the reality of the world," Temkin says.

The key to succeeding at customer service is to look across the enterprise and see what must be done to improve the experience company-wide. As Temkin says, superior customer service and experience are skills that must be practiced and learned. "You have to do it every day in every way and it's not something you can just periodically try and fix. To be really good at customer experience, you have to be dedicated and diligent, and it's something you have to drive across the business."

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