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How do we calculate the result of poor customer service?

January 19, 2010 1 comment

Poor customer service is costing businesses £3.4bn each year concluded a recent study by Merlin Stone  for Oxford Brookes University. My first reaction was this is just stating the ‘bleedin’ obvious’ and why was money spent on it.

Of course, all I was seeing was the press release and so there is probably a lot more weight to this – especially if Merlin Stone is behind it. I have followed his thinking on service for over a decade and it could never be described as lightweight. And I am sure the sponsor wanted some facts particularly around the amount of money involved/lost to poor service to help them shift product. Interestingly there was another report at the back end of last that put the cost of poor service at £15bn to UK businesses  – anyway the fact remains that we all know instinctively that poor service costs businesses and the numbers are little more than guess work.

My more considered second thought was that the process of trying to simplify the ‘poor service equals lost business’ equation down to that single number means much of the detail is lost as to how one gets to that point.  Understanding that calculation is important in running a service business (is there any other kind?).  The difficult bit is knowing what aspects of poor service affect the customer’s buying habits and how big their direct and indirect effects are. There are plenty of supposedly “poor” service companies doing well (sorry to mention Ryanair again) and “good” service companies struggling eg British Airways.

As an aside here do we mean customer experience rather than customer service

There is a slight problem with supposedly instinctive understanding. How do we know God exists? Because the evidence is all around us. Faith works for believers but not for bean counters so the effect of good service needs to be calculated. Otherwise we could be spending millions on services the customer doesn’t care about or is going to leave us anyway or nothing at all because the manager can not justify it to the CFO.

Someone, somewhere, will have done a formula for the effects of service on sales and profit (what about share value or market share?). It will have a number of variables in it – the customer demographic, their spend, the market, your strategy/goals, the competitive landscape, the regulatory landscape, your brand and so on. Sadly it means the calculation is always going to be a very individual one for each business.

These sorts of research surveys are really only there to get people thinking about the impact of poor service and to get publicity for the participants, so don’t place too much faith in them.

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