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The Customer is Wrong and Cannot Be Trusted

Type: Blog

Haven’t we all had those beyond awful customer service experiences? I recently had one of “those” experiences and was stunned that every interaction and communication with this major brand assumed that the customer was wrong and could not be trusted. It is shocking that this kind of behavior is still so pervasive today.

According to Shep Hyken, customer service expert, “Customer service is not a department, it is a philosophy.”

And, this is why so many companies still get it wrong. Most customer service departments are disconnected units built as battle grounds to defend corporate policies or disseminate complicated procedures that presume the customer is always wrong.

Companies must finally fix this by imposing customer engagement and retention behaviors and metrics for every channel used by customers.

According to the report Customers 2020 by Walker Information in collaboration with Customer Think and the Chief Customer Officer Council, by 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.

Here are some other stats to consider:

These insights are corroborated by findings from Voice of Customer Learnings from 15,000+ hours of research conducted by our firm, ERDM;

  • High quality customer experiences must occur at every point of contact, every medium and every part of the customer journey.
  • High value experiences are now a key competitive differentiator for consumers.

Marriott International Puts People First

With a slogan, putting people first, Marriot International has recently been named to the “2015 Customer Service Hall of Fame” by 24/7 Wall Street.

On their website Marriott International notes:

  • We put people first – Take care of associates and they will take care of the customers.
  • We pursue excellence – Marriott’s reputation for superior customer service dates back to J. Willard Marriott’s original goal for his business… We take pride in the details…
  • We embrace change – We’re driven to continually challenge the status quo and anticipate our customers’ changing needs.

Marriott trains its staff to understand each other so that it can understand consumers. According to Nancy Curtin Morris, Marriott’s National Director of Training:

“Our focus on customer service has been strong for more than 70 years. (The ability of) managers and their staff to understand and relate to customers – and that is where the payoff comes in…”

Marriott’s Second quarter 2015 net income totaled $240 million, a 25 percent increase over 2014 second quarter net income.


  1. Don’t think of customer service as call-center or chat based. Think of customer service as a company-wide commitment that transcends every touchpoint throughout the customer journey.
  2. Companies need to develop customer service policies and metrics that are relationship builders rather than merely avenues to defend company policies or disseminate impersonal information to customers who cannot be trusted.
  3. Train employees on communication and empathy so they can better navigate situations with each other and with customers to more efficiently and effectively.

According to Scott Broetzmann, president of Customer Care Measurement & Consulting, “Many companies today are simply awful at resolving customer problems…” And in the Arizona State University’s “customer rage” study it was noted that “satisfaction with service is actually no higher than it was in the 1970s.”

Companies need to take a new look at old, outdated customer service that cultivates a combative “us vs. them mentality.” Companies must rethink customer service as a revenue generating skill that builds, repairs and grows long-term relationships.

About the Author:

Ernan Roman Direct Marketing’s Customer Experience strategies achieve consistent double-digit increases in response and revenue for their clients, which include IBM, MassMutual, QVC, Microsoft, and Symantec Corp.

As a leader in providing Voice of Customer research-based guidance, ERDM has conducted over 10,000 hours of interviews with their clients’ customers and prospects, to gain an in-depth understanding of their expectations for high-value relationships.

The results achieved by ERDM’s VoC-based strategies earned Ernan Roman induction into the Marketing Hall of Fame.

Visit his blog at:


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