Customer Service and Free Lunches

This morning, my friend Alan Berkson (@berkson0) was at the ball park, announcing it live to the world through Twitter:

When you can actually count the number of fans in the stadium its not a big number #mets

Then, he was waiting in line to buy lunch. The line was long and, to provide better service, they opened a second station and broke the line in half. Good for everyone.

But Alan was half way through and suddenly found himself back at the end of a shorter line. The guy who arrive right after him was now first in the second line.

I followed the situation unraveling from my desk at work, until I saw this:

Rep turned #custserv #fail into #succeed at #citifield #shakeshack=free lunch. FTW.

The intention of the service provider was to feed hungry people faster, but after the action they had a bunch of unhappy customers who before were about half way through the wait and were suddenly the last ones in line.

Is fairness (as perceived by customers) important as a metric of quality for customer service? The consensus in the Twitter discussion that followed is a big “yes”. Inconsistency translates into customer dissatisfaction.

If you are going to treat customers differently, it better be because of a tangible criteria (SLA’s, tiered services, etc).

Karina (@KarinaHowell) added that not only it is important to maintain service consistency from interaction to interaction, but also, and perhaps more important, across the multiple channels where service is dispensed.

This is a big source of perceived unfairness, with people who complain in public getting more attention than the ones calling the customer service phone lines.

As more of customer server traffic moves from phone to email to social media, companies will need to ensure consistency across channels, or have to provide free lunch to unhappy customers who find themselves at the end of the line.

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