Do You “Walk the Talk” on Responsiveness to Customers?

Do You “Walk the Talk” on Responsiveness to Customers?

Issue: 

2011, March

Without doubt, the most profitable customer relationships are the longest. Happier customers stay longer and buy more. Customer loyalty is reinforced, or possibly eroded, with each individual customer interaction.
 For the past 10 years, my company has conducted a survey among leading companies, to gauge their responsiveness to email inquiries from customers. We compiled a database of top firms from the Financial Times’s Most Respected Companies, Fortune’s Most Admired Companies and The Reputation Institute’s Most Respected Companies. The list includes such well-known firms as Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bristol Myers, Microsoft, Berkshire Hathaway, Nordstrom, Google and more. Every year, we send each company an email with the subject line Customer Service and body copy saying “What is your corporate policy regarding the turnaround time for emails addressed to customer service?”
 Our purpose is to see which companies walk the CRM talk. Answers are the only things that count. Tell me your policy and I put a check next to your name. Here are the results, over time: 
In 2002, the high water mark, 86% of companies replied. The year 2009 was the low at 45%. This year, it was 51%. 
Looking at response speed, 63% of companies answered us within 24 hours in 2002. In 2009 the figure was 29%. This year, it was 35%. But there is an interesting development with this year’s survey. Fully 24% of the companies in our original database were no longer participating in the conversation at all. Of these:

  • 9% do not publish or post an email address.
  • 9% had a form that required information we did not have, like a flight number.
  • 6% of the emails we sent via the form provided bounced.


Among those who did answer, here are some interesting points to note:

  • 20% have a 24-hour response policy.
  • The web forms provided by P&G, Coke, General Mills and Kraft require age.
  • AMA’s stated policy is to respond within 24 to 78 business hours. (We wonder: how does a business hour differ from a regular hour?)
  • GE could not disclose the information because of privacy regulations.
  • IBM, HP and Target asked that we call in to discuss our question.

The fastest answer came from Nordstrom,in a mere 29 minutes. Their policy is asap. The slowest responder was Disney, at 11 days. Their policy is 2 – 7 business days. The oddest answer came from sar.Imceachern@protocolgs.com who wrote,“We like to respond within a 24 hour period” but never identified the company. So, if we are all committed to “CRM”,what went wrong here? A colleague once told me, “It would be such a nice business if it weren’t for all those annoying customers.”
 Research from Accenture says 61% of customers stated that poor customer service led them to change a supplier within the past year. Our conclusion from this study? Treat customers with trust and respect, and they will reciprocate. Treat customers like commodities, and they will surely return the favor.

Scott Hornstein is a marketing consultant, specializing in strategy, research and implementation. Reach him at scott@hornsteinassociates.com.

Author: 

Scott Hornstein
Scott Hornstein's picture

Scott Hornstein is a marketing consultant, specializing in strategy, research and implementation. Reach him at scott@hornsteinassociates.com.