By Sophia Crawford, MAP, PMP, ITILv3

Professor of the Knowledge Areas for Project Management I (Quality Management) course in the Master in Project Management Program at the University for International Cooperation.

June, 2015

Quality has different meanings to different people. Organizations need to develop their individual quality culture having their customers at the center of it.

We as customers want to feel valued and cared for. We want to know that when we take the time to fill out a post service survey, our suggestions and opinions are being considered, meaning that somebody is reading, paying attention and evaluating how our suggestions can be incorporated to provide “service differential”.

Here are some basic examples of the negative feelings customers are left with after a poor customer service experience:

In one particular incident a laptop user arrives home to his family at the end of the day feeling miserable. Why?

While at work he had problems accessing the Internet. He calls his Internet service provider to request help.

Between a lack of empathy, language communication issues, inadequate service, and lack of resolution, the service user is left feeling frustrated and unproductive.

In another incident a woman calls her service provider at a call center regarding a problem with her Blackberry.

The customer service representative at the service provider showed no compassion and because of inadequate knowledge in problem solving, was not able to resolve the problem.

It took the better part of a day before the customer’s unresolved problem was escalated to the next level of customer service.

Ultimately the customer was so frustrated with the events of the day and the valuable loss of time, that she almost had an accident driving home from work.

In contrast, companies that take customer service seriously will always provide “a differential customer service experience”. This makes customers feeling happy, positive about the service experience; in many cases they will even feel that they are the only ones important. These are the kind of feelings and positive reactions companies should be looking for when dealing with customers.

I recently bought three shirts online from I was not going to be physically present at the location where the shipment would be received. Based on the emails I received confirming delivery by UPS, I realized I was missing one shirt. I opened an on online chat to address the problem; the customer service care agent assured me my issue would be resolved. The following day, I received an email from another customer service care agent confirming that they were working on my case.

I responded back expressing my concerns because I did not want to be charged for something I was not going to receive. I also mentioned that this was my first time buying online from them, and that I was not sure I was going to do so again.

Sometime later, there was an e-mail from yet another customer service care agent. It explained that even though their records showed all 3 items having been delivered, they had reversed the charge of the missing item. In addition, they gave me the choice of ordering the item again, without having to incur additional shipping charges. Furthermore, I was told that if the price of the item had gone up, they would adjust the price to match the one I had originally paid for.

I was in shock to see that this company was willing to give me the benefit of the doubt and make my first experience purchasing online from them, a pleasant one.

I decided that I had to do my part since they were doing business in good faith. I reviewed all the emails I had received related to my purchase and then I realized that I had made a mistake, I was able to confirm that all three shirts had been already delivered.

As a customer I felt responsible, so I wrote back explaining my mistake and asked to have the charge put back on my credit card. I went on to say how the way they handled my situation had left me with a very good feeling about the company as a whole. I promised to share this great customer service experience with family and friends.

Their response was that they do not like to see customers upset or inconvenienced. They also said that my feedback had made their day!

Many companies today spend billions of dollars to portray their public image. The most important factor is “what customers think of these companies and the differential customer service they provide”.

In this highly innovative and technological society, the majority of good companies can provide you with quality products and affordable prices. However, unless these companies provide “top notch customer service”, they will be mediocre at best or lose customers left and right.

Unless companies continually ask what their customers want, listen to their customers, and act on feedback from these customers, they will never realize their full potential and perhaps not be in business for very long.