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October 2009 | Volume 12 / Number 10
Viewpoint: Voice of the Customer

Customer Experience and Bad Profit

To paraphrase Gordon Gekko: Profit is good. Or is it? It’s not when profit is gained at the expense of the customer or customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Over the past few years, more and more organizations are charging customers for services that used to – or should be – free. Everybody knows how the uproar when airlines began charging for beverages pressured them to change their minds. But airlines are still charging for seats and baggage handling that used to be free. Then there are those companies that appear to charge a flat amount for a service, but then charge fees if customers actually use the service – like a warranty or extended coverage – or they you dare to alter it. The result? Customers are nickeled and dimed until they end up paying much more than expected or walk away in disgust.

What effect does this have on the customer experience and customer loyalty? Just look at sites like, or to see customer frustrations with companies that are addicted to bad profit. The fact is, bad profit actually costs companies in time to handle complaints and in lost customers.

In “The Ultimate Question,” Fred Reinhold talks about the effect of bad profit on a company’s Netpromoter score, asking: “How likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or colleague?” But we must dig deeper to understand the real issues behind why customers are dissatisfied. Making changes to improve customer experience and loyalty may involve continuous improvement and may require transforming the customer relationship. We may be able to improve loyalty through improving processes or better training and quality monitoring.

But salvaging a relationship that’s been tattered because of bad profit is much more difficult. It takes business strategy transformation to focus on the customer, not just the bottom line and to find ways to maintain the delicate balance between profit and customer loyalty.

How can we, as customer service professionals, encourage this shift in focus? One way is through voice of the customer programs that get to the root cause of customer delight and customer dissatisfaction. If you don’t have one in place, I encourage you to start planning today. IT

Elaine Cascio is a vice president at Vanguard Communications Corp. (, a consulting firm specializing in customer experience ,contact center processes, operations and technology.

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