by CIO Staff

Customer Service? What Customer Service?

Jun 12, 20063 mins
IT Leadership

Businesses would have you believe that the customer is king.

The majority of senior executives and managers rank customer service as the top department that provides their organizations with the most strategic competitive advantage today.

They also rank it as the top department for that advantage two years from now, based on a global survey by NFI Research.

The number-two department that executives and managers say provides the most competitive advantage both today and two years from now is information technology. In many cases, it is the deployment of information technology that empowers other departments.

“My organization is in a mature sector,” said one survey respondent. “Most of the business functions are very much the same across the industry. Sales and operations make the difference because information technology allows them to segment the customer base so that pricing can be fine-tuned to the point of providing a real business advantage.”

In some cases, it is the product or service itself that allows other departments to satisfy customer needs.

“In our organization, it is the product and services group that is laying the foundation for growth for our company,” said another respondent. “We are developing innovative products and services that allow our sales team to be proactive, energized and equipped to close transactions. This will continue in our very competitive market.”

If information technology is considered so critical, why is it that the people who provide it are not always as appreciated as they should be? People in information technology deserve a raise, since they create, monitor and drive the complex engine behind the success of many other departments, and it is not easy work.

And if business leaders recognize customer service as the very top of the chain for providing their organizations with the most strategic competitive advantage both today and two years from now, why is so much customer service so bad?

Just think of how you are treated by people in businesses throughout the course of a normal day.

You may need to contact one of your suppliers, and no one answers the phone, leaving you to deal with endless voice loops. Or worse, you leave a message and no one returns your call. Or the people you talk to spend all of their time telling you how busy they are.

Or how about that e-mail you sent days ago, for which you still have not received even an acknowledgment, let alone a response to your query.

Then there are the promises made but not kept. Sounded good in the meeting, but no one delivers.

You might have had a customer service experience at the retail level, where the salesperson could care less that you needed help. After all, he or she is trying to read a book or magazine, or talking to a friend on the phone while you stand waiting. You’re yet another annoyance in the course of the day.

Everyone has a customer service horror story; the worst customer service experience you’ve ever had. It could be business related, such as how you were mistreated though being a good customer. Or it could be personal, such as an issue relating to having your car fixed, or trying to return defective electronic equipment.

Since business leaders consider customer service to be their strategic competitive weapon of the future, I have decided to chronicle ways to improve that customer service, by finding the worst customer service experiences—ever—and we’ll share them with you in the future. (Send your worst customer service experience to me at