Magazine article CRM Magazine

Give Customers What They Don't Expect: Raise the Bar, Instead of Falling Short of It

Magazine article CRM Magazine

Give Customers What They Don't Expect: Raise the Bar, Instead of Falling Short of It

Article excerpt

WHAT IF GOOGLE went down for two hours tomorrow? Would site users remember its 99.99 percent uptime--or would they focus on how inconvenient the downtime was for that two-hour period?

Most likely the latter--a product of a customer environment where 24x7 uptime is the rule. Facing such oversized consumer expectations, many organizations have gravitated toward grandiose--yet flawed--CRM initiatives. [For a look at how Google has penetrated the CRM world, see this month's cover story on page 22.]

The CRM initiative's mandate is often narrowly focused on addressing customer expectations through large technology-driven change management projects. And while these initiatives play a critical role in advancing customer centricity, customer satisfaction often fails to match the resources expended on these efforts.

The Accenture 2007 Global Customer Satisfaction Survey bears this out: 75 percent of participating executives felt their customer service was moderately or extremely good, but 57 percent of consumers described themselves as upset or marginally to extremely dissatisfied with their experiences. The temptation is to close this gap by pouring more resources into understanding what these dissatisfied customers do expect--and then trying to exceed these expectations. However, there is a growing realization that small initiatives designed to deliver what customers don't expect can also have a significant impact.

On a recent Southwest Airlines flight, thunderstorms delayed our departure for three hours. While grounded, attendants took some obvious measures--free food and drinks, frequent updates, etc.--but hardly any that would exceed sky-high passenger expectations.

It was the airline's next move that offered a glimpse of how a small--but unexpected--gesture creates a positive and lasting imprint. Two days after the flight I received a personal letter from a Southwest vice president, apologizing for the delay and offering a free one-way ticket voucher to any Southwest destination.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

For Southwest, the true cost of the gesture was relatively low. But the move created positive word of mouth and a potential revenue opportunity: Those who use the voucher still need to buy a one-way return ticket for that trip. …

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