Sep 16 2017 Mind The (Perception) Gap: What You Think Of Your Service VS. What Your Customers Think



I want to start this by asking to you to take a moment and genuinely reflect on the service you provide and answer this question: Are you delivering a superior experience to your customers? If you answered yes, I’m glad to hear of the confidence you have in your technology and your agents.

However, there’s a good chance your customers might have something to say about that.

Your Customers Probably Don’t Agree with You

A few years back, Bain did a study that threw this gap in perception between what companies think of their own service vs. their customers into harsh perspective. Where 80 percent of companies answered “Yes, absolutely!” in their ability to deliver an exceptional customer service experience, only a measly 8 percent of their customers agreed.

That 72 percent discrepancy is called the “delivery gap,” by Bain – but we prefer the term “perception gap” to describe this off-kilter assessment of how well you provide service to your customers.

Why Does This Happen?

Let’s take a look at one of my own experiences to explain how these contrasting opinions emerge. A company sent me three emails regarding my credit card on file, as it was about to expire. I attempted to update the card via the online portal but failed. I then called in, tried the IVR and eventually an agent was able to solve my problem.

More than likely, this company was patting themselves on the back. They had been proactive in communicating the issue, I was on hold for an acceptable amount of time and my problem was resolved on the first call.

Not so fast.

From my perspective, this service wasn’t great. I didn’t think their communication was proactive, because I never check my email. On top of that, what they didn’t know was that I spent 30 minutes of my own time trying to resolve my credit card issue without calling in, through self-service options. (Spoiler alert: It didn’t work.)

Only then did I finally call into an agent, which means there were four attempts made – web, email, self-service IVR and then an agent – to accomplish something as simple as updating my credit card information.

Think Like Your Customers

If you can admit that your customers might also have the same frustrations with your service – after all, admitting you have a problem is the first step – you need to then put yourself in their shoes and understand the experience from their perspective.

We like to use the definition provided by Forrester in the book “Outside In,” which is based on a decade’s worth of research. In this book, they outline how customers perceive their interactions with a company with a simple pyramid comprised of three basic principles:


Their experience should be enjoyable (an emotional component), easy (reduce customer effort, anyone?) and meet their needs.

Stop Trying to Delight Them, Reduce Their Effort

This pyramid speaks to another one of the most common missteps we see companies making with their customers. They are trying to delight them. In fact, 83 percent of companies have some sort of “delight” strategy in place, according to the CEB.

While this may seem logical, unfortunately, there is no research out there that suggests any sort of tangible link between customer satisfaction and loyalty – when you set out to delight or wow your customers.

So instead of delight, focus on the middle part of that pyramid and reduce customer effort. Seriously, it really is that simple. And as we’ve said in the past, you accomplish this by:

  1. Knowing your customers
    Identify, Predict, Personalize.
  2. Engage your customers
    Proactive, Actionable.
  3. Value their time
    Guide, Simplify.

If you only have time to pick one of these to start, choose to value their time. Often it will be the number one driver of improving any metric you use to gauge the effectiveness of your customer service.

Not only will you put yourself on your way to bridging that perception gap, you’ll see tangible ROI for your own company, as well. Because when customers rank their service experiences as low effort, 94 percent of them continue to purchase from that company, says CEB. (And 88 percent of them even increased their spending.)

Of course, you could choose to remain blissfully ignorant. But if your customers say it’s a painful, “high effort” experience to solve their problems, 81 percent of them will speak poorly of your company to others – no matter how highly you think of yourself.