A potentially fatal problem in customer service and the customer experience is that of customers falling over the Cliff of Dissatisfaction. This is the moment when a customer loses faith that your business is going to be able to serve them in a timely manner. It may also be the point at which they start considering–or even jumping directly to–your competition.
Starbucks provides a positive example here, with its proprietary Cliff of Dissatisfaction number for every market and even micro-market: how long customers on, say, the Upper West Side of Manhattan will contentedly wait for a latte. As a busy Starbucks store will likely be pushing right up against that number, Starbucks does everything it can to make the wait at least seem shorter: clever eye candy in the in-store merchandising, friendly “can I get something started for you” employees working the line, handing out free samples, and so forth. (This was also the genesis of Starbucks’ wildly successful pre-order app.)
And ultimately, if a particular Starbucks on a particular corner just can’t keep up with customer desires for speedy-enough service, Starbucks lets the Cliff of Dissatisfaction situation guide its real estate acquisition plans: building out and opening another Starbucks on the very next corner over.
Is your business monitoring the satisfaction or restlessness of customers as thoroughly as Starbucks? It’s essential that you do so. To give you a simple, cautionary example, do you have any idea how quickly website inquiry forms answered? Try it yourself: fill out one of the forms on your own website to see when you actually get a reply. I’ll bet the answer is never—or close enough to never that most any customer or prospect would be driven to give up in disgust or to shoot off a series of agitated tweets to try to get somebody’s—anybody’s—attention.
Or, maybe, they simply forget all about your company and their initial interest in doing business with you. Daniel Rodriguez, CMO of Simplr, a company that provides on-demand customer service and customer support, calls these prospective customers
“tab jumpers.” Most anyone can be turned into a tab jumper, warns Rodriguez, whose company provides support to brand that range from Yeti to Parachute to Steve Madden. “If you neglect to answer questions and engage them as soon as they’re ready.” Fail to be timely here and “they’re likely to simply jump to another browser tab to complete their purchase.”
Some entire industries are too slow to keep the modern customer satisfied. This is a particularly risky situation to be in, because you probably don’t even realize that anything’s wrong, since your competitive cohort is made up of similar laggards to yourself. The solution is to benchmark yourself not against your industry peers, but against better players in other market segments that customers are undoubtedly judging you against as well. Barring this, your company will remain a sitting duck for a new, faster competitor coming to town and eating its lunch, breakfast, and dinner.
Now, it’s possible that you can’t make your actual service or product timetable any shorter than it currently is. “We can’t all be Amazon Prime Now, with its 1-hour delivery times in major markets,” concedes Rodriguez, the Simplr CMO. “However,” he continues, “customers are still looking for an Amazon-esque response time when it comes to your customer support. People now expect immediacy in their customer service interactions. We’re in the ‘now era’ of the customer. Responsiveness must be met with resolution in order to keep those customers loyal and prevent them from shopping elsewhere.”