The customer service experience and your brand reputation

By Judith O’Neill*

WHEN I visited a client in Perth last month he showed me an article I wrote for travelBulletin in 2005.
He said he shows it to all new employees to emphasise that what he wants them to deliver to clients is “Service with a Smile” – Friendliness is Number One.

My article was based on research conducted by the customer service experience agency GAPbusters Worldwide who found that staff friendliness is the most valued aspect of the customer service experience.

GAPbusters also found that 94 per cent of retail shoppers will stay loyal to a retail shop or travel agency where the staff are genuinely friendly, even if prices are cheaper somewhere else.
In order of importance, customers were looking for:

• Staff friendliness;
• Staff knowledge;
• Efficiency of service;
• Reliability;
• Professionalism;
• Responsiveness;
• Product range/appeal;
• Value for money (attractive pricing);
• Taking ownership of service;
• Atmosphere;
• Shop/agency presentation/ environment; and
• Accessibility.

The research found that when respondents were asked “If prices were slightly higher at this outlet than at similar businesses in your area, would you still choose to visit this outlet?” Some 94 per cent said “Yes”.

I thought it was time that I again looked at what GAPbusters Worldwide research said about customers wants and needs when “shopping” for retail services.

According to Clive Hickman of GAPbusters Worldwide, there are two popular business themes that have accounted for many articles, blogs, presentations and enough books to fill a shelf or two. 

The first, “Word of Mouth”, has come to real prominence more recently as social media (together with mobile devices, I might add) have been dominating marketing and media teams’ focus and causing brand managers to have sleepless nights.

One or two unfortunate tweets about poor customer experience that get endlessly re-tweeted, or a YouTube video that goes viral, are all it takes for your brand, agency, company and possibly career, to go down like a ton of bricks. In business, reputations are everything, especially today.

The latest Nielsen Advertising report, which surveyed more than 28,000 internet respondents in 56 countries, shows that 92 per cent of consumers around the world say they trust “earned media”, such as recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising (an increase of 18 per cent since 2007).

Online consumer reviews are the second most trusted source of brand information and messaging, with 70 per cent of global consumers surveyed online indicating they trust messages on this platform (an increase of 15 per cent in four years).

This was the response to the question: To what extent do you trust the following forms of advertising?

1. Recommendations from people I know – 92 per cent.
2. Consumer opinions posted online – 70 per cent.
3. Editorial content such as newspaper articles – 58 per cent.
4. Branded websites – 58 per cent.
5. Emails I signed up for – 50 per cent.

Remember, Word of Mouth includes personal messaging and this is where your customers smartphones become weapons or wonders!

The second business theme is Net Promoter Score (NPS) which was brought to us by Fred Reichheld and Bain & Co back in 2006.

NPS in its essence is an attempt to create a single metric that can be used to help measure the relative health of a business. It is based upon the single question: “How likely is it that you would recommend us to a friend or colleague?” with responses collected by a rating scale of: 10 “Extremely likely” to … 0 “Not at all likely”

NPS is a very simple and easy to use metric that helps you keep your business focused on ensuring that your customers have the best possible customer experience and thus have the highest propensity to recommend. The sole objective is to ensure your business has a good and stable reputation, among both the general public and those hard earned existing customers.

Perhaps you should start to think of NPS as something that can not only help you track and drive improvements in your customer experience, but also enhance your reputation. NPS then becomes a means by which you can simultaneously help stimulate the power of word of mouth to promote your business.

*Judith O’Neill is a management consultant, business and corporate coach. She is the principal of Aspirations Consulting and is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Judith can be contacted on telephone (02) 9904 3730 or email or visit