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Customer Loyalty: An Unscientific Experiment

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, Editorial Director, Customer Inter@ction Solutions


Anyone who reads my regular columns on TMCnet knows I use a personal scale for customer service, with Geico at the top and cable companies at the bottom. The delight I've gotten in being a Geico customer for the last several years culminated in a TMCnet article praising the insurance company. (Curious readers can view it at tmcnet.com/162.1). I received so much positive e-mail over the next several months, both from other happy Geico customers and from grateful Geico employees, I had to make a special folder in Outlook in which to store all the feedback. Geico itself was so pleased with my article, representatives sent me a stuffed Geico Gecko which resides atop my computer monitor.

Every cable company I've ever had, on the flip side, makes immigration procedures in third-world countries seem efficient and pleasant. The horror stories I've experienced with cable customer service are awful and epic and could fill a book. From my experience, these companies want to take your money but have zero interest in what you ' as the customer ' need, want or think. I've been a customer of my particular cable company for eight months. Both the cable modem and the cable television work, but the customer I.D. number I was given never seems to exist as far as the agent is concerned every time I call. When the agent gets bored by my queries about how I don't seem to exist in their system but do, in fact, get a bill each month (which seems somewhat curious to me), he or she usually disconnects me.

Customer loyalty shouldn't be a complicated concept for companies. I realize the huge disconnect between a company like Geico and a cable company lies in that Geico customers have a choice to go elsewhere, and cable customers are more or less stuck in the grooves of a monopoly, ensuring customer loyalty through default.

Do you know what the buzz is on your company's customer service? Before you can fix your customer relationships, you should know where you currently stand.

I did an experiment.

I went into Google.com and typed in the words 'Geico sucks' to see how many hits I got. There were 611 instances. Then I did the same with my cable company and got a whopping 3,960 results. Lest you think that's not fair because the companies are different sizes, I did a little math, comparing percentages of complaints to revenues. I found that with most of the cable companies, while Geico had roughly half the revenue of the big name cable companies, it had an average of only 15 percent of the complaints. Unscientific? Yes, probably; cable companies have many more customers than Geico, as an insurance company's per-customer transaction dollar value will always be higher than that of a cable provider (though not for long if broadband rates keep rising).

I don't mean to pick on only cable companies or praise only Geico. There are many companies famous for their brilliant customer service (L.L. Bean) and many more that are notorious for erratic service (almost all wireless companies). But the poorly ranked customer service companies do have a bright side to look at: there's no direction to go but up. CIS

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