Your service quality isn’t defined by your industry

I was recently asked which industry sectors have the most issues with poor customer service and what could be causing this?

Telecommunications (telecom, TV, internet), health plans, government offices, airlines, and insurance are the industries that consistently produce the lowest overall customer satisfaction (OSAT) scores.

I think it’s misguided to suggest, for instance, that insurance companies are doomed to poor OSAT due to the tension that exists between paying out (i.e., settling claims) and protecting corporate assets (i.e., denying/limiting claims). USAA is an insurance company, for example, that consistently leads the industry in OSAT. The difference is that USAA has made the decision to be exceptional and its processes (e.g., employee hiring and training, claim submission, claim payment, etc.) reflect that decision.

While there are regulatory guidelines governing these industries that may restrict their autonomy, there are ways to mitigate these restrictions. For example, as much as the airline captain would like to push back from the gate and get her passengers to their final destinations, if the crew has exceeded its Duty Time Limitations threshold due to a mechanical delay, the plane will not take off. This will disappoint hundreds of passengers who will hold the airline – not the FAA – responsible.

Similarly, airlines are required by the FAA to administer a preflight safety announcement/demonstration. While, historically, this has been a staid process that has been largely ignored by airline passengers, Southwest Airlines flight attendants have earned a reputation for enlivening the routine announcements by using (mostly) appropriate humor.

Both USAA and Southwest Airlines recognize that exceptional customer service doesn’t happen by chance – it happens by choice.

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