CUSTOMER KING

CEO Richard Hebert’s iSky manages customer service programs for the likes of Porsche, Amazon.com, Sharp, and Harley-Davidson. Here’s his wisdom on customers and the companies that claim to serve them.

AW: Why is there a trend toward outsourcing customer service operations?
Hebert:
The ratings point to a crisis in customer service in America. From the customer’s perspective, it’s terrible. Companies have not been able to keep up with the degree of
interactivity that customers are looking for.

AW: Why do companies fail to provide good customer service?
Hebert:
Most lack the focus and the wherewithal. You need rigorous processes. Even if a company has millions of customers and thousands of products, only a finite number of customer issues will arise. You must map out how each of those will be handled.

AW: iSky hears from thousands of consumers a day. What do they want most of all?
Hebert:
They want respect for their time because our lives are so hectic now. And they want appreciation for the business they’re giving these companies.

bAW: Some experts believe brand loyalty is dying as consumers chase the lowest price. Wrong?
Hebert:
Our data dispels that completely. There’s a value equation people buy on — quality relative to cost. That’s the quality of the product as well as the service, relative to the customer’s perception of the cost. And that equation is different for everyone. That’s why some people will pay 10 or 20 percent more for the sake of convenience.

AW: Is it uncomfortable to tell a client that customers hate something about the company?
Hebert:
That’s part of our job. But we’ve found that a customer who contacts us with a problem ends up becoming more loyal than a customer who doesn’t complain. It’s an opportunity to build a relationship.