We’ve all been that customer we never want to create. Grown from frustration, helplessness, and perceived abandonment. Caught in call trees, menu options, and calls that disconnect just before resolution. We’ve complained that it feels like Customer Service has all but disappeared. But, what about your customers? When they’re looking for great Customer Service from you, they deserve to have you show up. And, with customer acquisition costs being 5-25 times higher than customer retention, you want to do everything you can to make sure they don’t disappear either. 

82% of consumers stop doing business with a company with whom they’ve experienced bad service. Understanding the concepts of time inequality, narrative accumulation, and service relativity, can help you identify and brainstorm solutions for more positive Customer Service transactions. They sound fancy, but you’ll recognize them, particularly from your own experiences as a customer.    

1. Time Inequality

Time Inequality is a by-product of the automated world in which we live. It refers to the different lengths of time a customer and employee spend resolving a customer issue. In a brick and mortar scenario, that time expenditure is equal, as it’s face-to-face. The customer has a need, and they solve it with the employee, together. Today though, it’s typical for the customer to spend 20-30 minutes troubleshooting online, reading forum threads, and knowledge base articles, before they realize their solution requires a phone call to the company. By the time they speak to someone, chances are they’ve been routed through an automated phone tree, and on hold for another 10 minutes. In addition to their frustration about whatever the original problem was, they’ve amassed the perception that their time isn’t important to you (even though the automated voice assures them it is.) You have a frustrated customer. Let’s hope the call rep has the tools to assuage them and resolve the issue with flying colors.

2. Narrative Accumulation

Back in the day, businesses actually knew their customers personally.  They might ask about the kids or the Missus, or how the new fan belt has improved the performance of their car. While that personal touch isn’t completely gone, technology has been tasked with this crucial element of Customer Service, and a lot can get lost in the shuffle. Narrative Accumulation refers to everything that happens in the story of that customer’s experience. When the customer has a problem, the narrative accumulates until there’s a resolution. There are few things more maddening to a customer than retelling their story to multiple reps who have no knowledge of the accumulated narrative. If the customer has to call back, they must re-navigate the phone system, answer all the same questions, and possibly even pay to speak to the rep (in cases of expired warranties.) It’s hard to imagine a more infertile soil for a positive Customer Service experience.

3. Service Relativity

The simple truth is, if you’re not leaving a great impression on your customers, they’ll take their business somewhere else. You’d do the same. More than ever, customers are aware of the vast options out there. In real time they are assessing their current experience, and making comparisons along the accumulation of their narrative. Your company is interchangeable, thanks to the click of a mouse, online reviews, and easy ways to compare prices and policies. Your customer has the ability to compare your service relative to all others. Therefore, it’s crucial to prioritize their positive experience.

4. Put It All Together

When you address ways to prioritize time equality and narrative accumulation for your customers, your customers will become your best advocates and word-of-mouth/online marketers. Find solutions to simplify common service requests. Keep records and develop a protocol for service interactions so picking up the narrative is simple. Look at your data, interview customers, and keep an eye on how your competitors are doing things. Optimize these variables. Show up for your customers, and they’ll show up for you. And little by little Customer Service, as we once knew it, may re-appear.