Reining in customer service costs while keeping customer satisfaction scores high is especially necessary—and especially difficult—in an uncertain economy. It's a balancing act so strenuous, many companies don't even attempt it. Instead, they respond to a downturn by cutting service costs at the expense of service quality in order to meet short-term financial targets. When the economy begins to recover, they try to win back customers by beefing up customer service—only to find it's too late. This article, by four partners at Bain & Company, explains why service efficiency and customer satisfaction are not incompatible goals. They identify three practices that can help companies balance efficiency and quality in their service operations: (1) Differentiate service levels and match them to corresponding customer segments; (2) Strive for consistent levels of service over several budget cycles; and (3) Share accountability and continually look for efficiencies in service operations.
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