“Once you can fake sincerity, you’ve got it made.”

Rick Munro | 13th June 2016

There’s a sign that used to be a regular feature in small shops and restaurants which read something like this:

“If you enjoyed our experience with us, tell others. If not, tell us.”

It’s been around for years, and so familiar that you could easily miss just how effectively it summarises where we are now with customer service. A modern take on the adage might be:

“If you enjoyed our service, maybe tell your friends on Facebook. If not, tweet your Twitter followers but include a passive-aggressive @mention for us.”

The reality of customer feedback is that you are more likely to hear mild pleasantries or brainless social media rants than the really useful stuff that could actually help to improve a business. Research from the White House Office of Consumer Affairs suggests that for every customer who bothers to complain, 26 other customers remain silent. And based on what I see in my timeline, most of them are on Twitter.

Customer experience in all its forms is the most effective way to differentiate your company from the competition. You should be listening to their feedback with open ears. A US survey from 2009 reported that the single most requested improvement to customer service was “better human service”. The paradox we face today is that, as technology has enabled greater automation of customer engagements, more customers cry out to be treated as people and have the option to deal with another human – if that’s their preference.

The challenge then becomes being able to humanise interactions across the board, and ensure that any human-to-human interactions are optimal. This, in turn, puts a lot more emphasis on the people within a business, and their ability to effectively represent your business.

In this light, HR takes on a whole new status in the organisation – they have a big role in ensuring customer service functions are optimal. Are your employees engaged? Are they motivated? Do they feel like they are a part of something bigger? If the answer to those questions is “I don’t know”, then there really is little excuse. It’s never been easier to ask simple questions and gather responses that can impact your organisation’s performance. If you fail to engage your staff, this, in turn, is likely to affect your customers down the line.

Tony Hsieh, CEO of US runaway success story Zappos, said: “Customer service shouldn’t just be a department, it should be the entire company.”

Your employees almost certainly your organisation’s greatest resource. How do they feel about your company, and how motivated are they to improve the customer service they deliver? Answering these questions will offer actionable feedback, and lead directly to you developing a competitive advantage.

With thanks to George Burns for that title.