Do You Let Your Customers Talk To You??

I say it all the time….  Companies need to open lines of communications with their customers (both good and bad) in order to build a brand that the customers love.   Most companies don’t do this.  Instead, they segment and analyze customer groups based on reseach (usually done by another company) in order to “understand” who their customers are.   Nowhere in this process does the company actually reach out and speak to a large cross-section of their customers.  And if that’s not bad enough, consider the fact that most companies make it really difficult for customers to reach out to them. 

A report card published recently in the Seattle Times states that out of 500 major American corporations, only 10% of them received an acceptable rating (grade C or above) in how well they dealt with customers over the phone.  

“Got a question about your credit? Good luck reaching someone at Experian, the national credit bureau.   They won’t even give you their phone number until you order a copy of your credit report.”

“Having trouble with your Eureka vacuum? Don’t press 0 — the manufacturer hangs up on you if you try to dodge its automated phone system.”

“Need information from Chrysler? Choose from one of five menu options on the car company’s phone system — or be trapped in an endlessly repeated loop from which there’s no escape.”

Only nine companies (that’s the number 9, not 9%) received an A rating.  My company, like most in the retail sector, received an F rating.  The article goes on to state that entire industries (cable and satellite TV, insurance, software) are failing to meet minimum standards for telephone customer service.

The report card was compiled by Paul English, who manages the gethuman 500 database. It rates companies for such criteria as:

  • Can you hit zero to speak to an operator?
  • Does the system let you know how long you will have to remain on hold?
  • Does the caller have to repeat information such as names and account numbers?
  • How easy is it to understand the human customer representative who eventually answers?

In the retail sector, the few companies who do score well include Dillards Department Stores, L.L. Bean, Lands End.   The Seattle Times interviewed some to these companies to get their perspective:

“Providing a human option is critical to our business model,” L.L. Bean spokesman Rich Donaldson said.  Customer-service representatives employed by L.L. Bean answer calls at four centers in Maine. It’s costly to do business that way rather than hiring contractors or relying on automation, but Donaldson said the company views it as a long-term investment.

Doing away with the human touch “is something we wouldn’t consider,” he said.

Find your company in the GetHuman database and then ask what you could be doing differently to be human to your customers.

PS:  Just saw Becky Carroll’s first post of the New Year in which she talks about cost cutting and customer service.  Wearing my “Master of the Obvious” hat, I would presume that most of the low scoring companies in the GetHuman database are there because of a cost cutting focus.


3 comments so far

  1. Becky Carroll on


    Thanks for mentioning my post on cost cutting vs customer satisfaction. I agree with you that most companies scoring low in GetHuman are likely focused on costs rather than customers. Any company that takes a moment to put themselves in their customer’s shoes by calling their own customer service number should be able to improve their scores, as long as they act on what they find!

    Thanks again,


  2. Marcin on

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