The 2009 4th Quarter American Customer Satisfaction Index scores were released today and the big winners were internet retailers that required very little, if any, interaction with a human being. (Ouch!) The average score for online retailers was 83% compared to a 75% average customer satisfaction rating for 'Big Box' discount retailers and department stores. Clearly, U.S. companies as a whole are not doing a good job of person to person customer service.
Internet retailers do well
Netflix, the online video rental company, had the highest score among retailers included in the report with an 87% customer satisfaction rating. I've been a loyal Netflix customer for several years and would rate their 'service' very highly, but I don't think I've ever interacted with a single Netflix employee. The many attributes I like include their convenient and speedy service, large library of video titles, and on-demand viewing capability.
Big box stores - not so much...
I have consistently been frustrated by poor service when I've tried to shop at many large retailers like Macy's. They have many opportunities to assist customers and increase sales, but most employees I encounter are content with ringing up purchases and handling stock. Of course, you can always count on someone at Macy's asking if you'd like to open up a Macy's card. They do do that.
What's the fix?
If the new CBS show, Undercover Boss is any indicator, corporate executives need to get out of their offices and manage from ground level. I suppose you can lead from behind a desk when all your service is delivered online, but you can't be completely hands-off with a retail store. Employees need training, coaching, and motivation. They also need to be held accountable. And, you need to make sure you are hiring the right employees in the first place. None of this can be managed via email or through a spreadsheet.