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Client Service: Exceeding Expectations is Really Not That Hard

November 07, 2012

Are you a victim of convenience?

There are many companies out there that say their number one priority is delivering excellent customer service. This is ingrained in their messaging on their website in their ads and stores, right down to their mission statement, yet many companies fail to deliver on this promise. As a consumer, you base and set your expectations on these promises. However, once your interaction with the company is complete, how often do you go back and evaluate someone’s performance and compare it to what was actually delivered? How often do you change your behavior after that evaluation?

In my opinion, there has become an increased complacency in the service industry today. We tend to settle for less than what we are promised as customers, most often because it’s the more convenient choice. My recent trip to purchase new tires and get an oil change was no different. When I visited the local tire shop of a national chain, which I have been going to for 10 years now, I was once again left unsatisfied by their level of service.

To be honest, the customer service has always been inconsistent at best. Prior to dropping off my truck, the “check engine” light came on. In a rush to get in and out of the shop as quickly as possible, I forgot to ask the service technician to investigate it. Upon leaving, I told the clerk I needed my truck back by noon, which she assured me, would be no problem and they would call when it was ready. As I expected, noon came and went without a phone call. Once I realized the time, I had to check up on my car which was ready for pickup. Although they had forgotten to call me, I went down, grabbed the keys, and was happy to be on my way. However, once I hopped into my truck, I remembered the check engine light (which was still on), that I had forgotten to ask about.

When I went back in to inquire if they had checked it, I was told that they noticed it was on when I dropped it off, and that they had noted it on my receipt (on the last page, of course). When I asked if they could check it, they told me I would have to pay a diagnostic fee and that I was better off going down the road to the local auto parts store, where they could check it for free (sending business to a competitor – always a good move). As you can imagine, I left and was not a happy customer. I thought it was absolutely ridiculous that they didn’t even offer to do the diagnosis for me rather than noting on the receipt that I “declined” service (which at that point, I hadn’t). Certainly this was not the experience I would have expected seeing that their website states “…..we’re also the right spot before and after things go wrong with your ride”.

In the past ten years I have never mentioned that I was unhappy with my experience at the tire shop and I recognize it is my fault for not speaking up about their lackluster performance. Unfortunately for me, I will most likely continue to give them my business because, well, the shop is convenient to use since it is right down the road from where I work.

It’s not uncommon for us to hear similar stories from the various prospects we meet with in the PE/VC industry. Just like my experience at the tire shop, this especially comes into play when smaller clients are dealing with larger national firms. I hear countless complaints from smaller clients and their portfolio companies that the large national firms they are working with for “all” of their accounting needs, just don’t live up to their expectations. They are never able to talk to the same person twice (due to high staff turnover), have to call to check up on requests (lack of attention) and express an overall dissatisfaction with the level of service they are receiving. When asked why they haven’t looked for alternatives sooner, they say that’s who they’ve always used and have dealt with the way they were treated because it was, for lack of a better term, convenient. Once new clients come on board, they quickly realize what having your expectations exceeded really means, and many wish they had made the change earlier.

Great companies pride themselves on exceeding client expectations, and they know what it takes to hit a homerun. Surprisingly, it’s not that hard, and there is no secret sauce. As long as you continuously communicate with your clients, you can constantly identify and address their needs before they turn into problematic situations (and before they start looking for another service provider). Great companies realize how important their clients are and what it means to exceed their expectations. Take a look at your service providers and see if you are a victim of convenience. Ask yourself, am I completely satisfied with my service? Are my expectations exceeded on a regular basis?

For more information from on our Private Equity/Portfolio Companies group visit our website or contact John Surrette, Jr., CPA, CFE, MBA.

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