Do your think your business is successful at providing great customer service? Whatever you believe, extensive new research suggests that there is often a massive difference between the quality of customer service a business thinks it is providing and the actual client experience. In fact, the apparent overconfidence is really quite staggering.

Looking closely at 12 years of polls and surveys, the Mind the Gap report by the Directors’ Centre, a business development organisation, has highlighted significant discrepancies in the business and customer viewpoints.

While 80% of businesses believed they were providing an above-average customer experience, 89% of the said clients disagreed. Firms in the professional services sector came out particular badly, with the majority of clients reporting having experienced very low quality customer service.

Possible reasons cited for this huge gap include: an inability to take on customer feedback, not being close enough to the customer, failure to monitor every step of the customer journey, being too preoccupied with paperwork and statistics, and failure to design new products and services.

Solutions for improved customer service

The Directors’ Centre has put together some recommendations to help SMEs that are looking to improve their customer service offering.

First and foremost, it was stressed that companies needed to work towards becoming more customer-centric in order to meet the wants and needs of clients. Other suggestions for improvements included: identifying key target customers, setting a clear tone of voice, aligning the sales, marketing and operations and using the appropriate channels for effective communication.

While considerable advancements in technology have made it possible to communicate much faster and easier, it was advised that there should always be an emphasis on engaging with clients on a personal level; trying to see through the eyes of the customer.