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February 13, 2006

News & Opinion: Are we too altruistic? An inside look into customer service

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 8:50 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

There appears to be a new trend in customer service. Companies are actually starting to work towards the long term goal of customer loyalty rather than the short-sighted goal of month-to-month (and even quarterly) profits. Call it a relatively newfound focus on lifetime value and loyalty; this new focus benefits both parties -- consumers and companies.
Perhaps corporations and businesspeople, alike will stop being placed in the negative, profit hungry category and start being placed in the "they actually care" category. Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, authors of Return on Customer, pose the question, "Are U.S. firms going soft, suffering from an excess of altruism?" No, they have not. They've come to realize the value of treating customers well and in the competitive U.S. market, this is not only a good idea but its essential to any long-term success.
It's something that we've all known makes a difference -- superb customer service -- yet, implementing it isn't as easy as pie. According to Peppers and Rogers, "What customers value more than anything in today's complex world is to buy from a company they can trust to respect their interests, even if it means giving them a better deal than they might otherwise have known about, or letting them compare competitive offers directly."
One example they gave, Air Canada -- their customer "advocacy department" works to fix each complaint to the benefit of the customer. My example -- Harry & David -- my favorite delicious fruit provider, even if a little pricey. The two times I've had problems with the quality of their fruit (which is usually extremely delicious) they've always fixed it in a timely manner and with an appropriate response.
One interesting customer service note was on W hotels. They're new intiative is the "appropriate use of eavesdropping." (Under the on the beat section; registration required). I really enjoyed my one-time stay at a W hotel in San Francisco and am curious to see how this intiative will play out. According to the vice president of human resources, they're trying to make an "extra, unique customer experience that you'd only find at the W."

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.