Hygiene is paramount in building customer service

Well yes, that sort of hygiene is important, but “Hygiene factors” in building customer service are significantly more important than previously thought and significantly more important than delighting your customers.

Frederick Herzberg introduced concepts in the 1950s that have revolutionised the way we look at employee motivation in the workplace and these have now moved into motivating customers in business. His theory introduces two separate scales measuring employee satisfaction. He hypothesised that there is one scale that measures employee satisfaction, and another scale measures dissatisfaction. Herzberg’s view was that satisfaction and dissatisfaction are not co-dependent opposites (e.g. increase in satisfaction reduces dissatisfaction- this is in fact not correct) but rather separate measurements all together. The two factors that comprise the theory are motivators (which create satisfaction) and hygiene factors (which reduce dissatisfaction).

When considered from a workplace perspective it looks like this:

  • Motivators such as autonomy, recognition, and skill development work to GROW employee satisfaction.
  • Hygiene Factors such as salary, job security, and work conditions work to REDUCE employee dissatisfaction.

Moving from the workplace to our interactions with our customers, this we can gain actionable insight by viewing service interactions through the “two factor” lens.

Here’s how… In a service environment we can consider:

Modified Kano graph- focusing on motivators and Hygiene factors*
  • Motivators such as free products, convenient social media support channels, and “WOW” moments in service transactions can increase  customer satisfaction (not doing these does not create dissatisfaction, unless they become hygiene factors by being taken for granted)
  • Hygiene Factors such as extended phone options, long hold times, unavailability, or inconsistency in pricing can decrease customer dissatisfaction (but the better you do on these it does not increase satisfaction).

When thinking of what we offer our customers, and set their expectations, many of these expectations are hygiene factors. These are elements that will rarely build customer delight (even when done very well), but when done poorly they are major dis-satisfiers. Expectations will vary across businesses based on your customer needs. For example, you will expect a different level of service at a Hilton hotel than you would at the McDonalds. What we must understand of our particular customers is what elements of their expectations could create increased satisfaction (motivators) and which can decrease dissatisfaction (hygiene factors).

Hygiene factor processes and workflows can be effortful to create and maintain. As customer service creators and managers, we often pursue the sexy motivators -things often associated with delighting our customers.  The problem is that we often get carried away with creating “WOW” moments and we fail to meet fundamental expectations consistently. While focussing on increasing satisfaction  – making things WOW-  we ignore things which create dissatisfaction.

Consider the statistic from “The Effortless Experience” by the CEB that a customer service interaction is four times more likely to drive disloyalty vs. loyalty!

What this means is the nature of our service methodology needs to be turned on its head. We should be defensive rather than offensive in thinking about service. Our role as service leaders is to first and foremost to prevent or mitigate any service damage. When your customers either have zero problems or are able to achieve problem resolution quickly, easily and consistently, then and only then should motivators become a key part of your service strategy.

Research by the CEB, Forrester and the Harvard Business Review all demonstrate definitively how meeting expectations and reducing effort is far more valuable than delight when it comes to customer loyalty.

Here are several examples of common customer expectations in technology support.  Are there areas where your defense may be suffering?

  • Customers want to be guided to the BEST channel to resolve a problem quickly, not the channel most convenient for the organization

  • Short hold times, limited (if any) phone options to achieve the correct party over the phone quickly
  • To be treated as a valued individual and shown empathy during a challenging situation
  • For the problem solver to demonstrate active listening – waiting for the customer to finish the problem statement before offering solutions
  • For problem solvers to be knowledgeable not only of the product or service the company offers, but also of the customer’s unique situation (how else can you be a knowledge expert for them?)
  • A clear channel for product feedback, (here’s the kicker) and offering the customer some type of reciprocation based on suggestions offered

The CEB data and Herzberg’s Motivation/Dissatisfaction Theory go hand in hand.  It explains why customers can report being satisfied or even delighted one day, and then leaving us for another vendor the next.  The satisfaction rates on surveys are subject to appear higher when we sprinkle in motivating “delight” factors, when in reality the baseline hygiene factors are not being met.  Take a lesson from Herzberg – don’t let motivators muddle your metrics and distract you from what is really important…defense.

* The Kano model is a theory of product development and customer satisfaction developed in the 1980s by Professor Noriaki Kano,  classifies customer preferences into five categories… I think this is too complicated to apply to customer service activities