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When Good Customer Service Becomes Too Much

One of my career tenets has been "serve the customer in the way they want to be served," no matter whether my customer is an actual paying customer of my company's products/services or an internal customer I'm supporting. It's kind of a "CX Platinum Rule" of sorts, and it has served me well over the years.

It goes without saying that feedback is essential to best serve customers. In order to know whether you're meeting – or even exceeding – their needs and expectations, you need to know what those needs and expectations are. Additionally, follow-up is a valuable tool to determine customers' satisfaction with the work you're doing. That said, there needs to be a healthy balance of sampling your customer population to have a statistically valid perception of their satisfaction levels without going overboard.

I recently contracted with a company for services. I was a little surprised with the personal follow-up of a phone call from a customer service rep, who asked if I was satisfied with the process and fulfillment and whether there was anything else they could do. Nope, I was good. But then imagine my surprise when I received an email inquiring about my satisfaction level with the phone call – and then another one a few days later reminding me about the survey.

It reminded me about another incident I wrote about a few months ago, where I was asked to submit a Net Promoter Score (NPS) rating on a basic pass-fail interaction on a company's website. The experience didn't really seem to me like it was worthy of follow-up or the basis for a customer satisfaction survey.

The whole thing made me ask the question: At what point does the need for input on customer satisfaction become bothersome to customers? How far down the rabbit hole do we go – in the case of my own interaction, would I get another communication to gauge my satisfaction level with the email about their survey about my phone call regarding their service?

Customer satisfaction has become the North Star for many companies. And with NPS, the ACSI (American Customer Satisfaction Index) and J.D. Power ratings all becoming more prominent parts of companies' marketing plans, the spiral into the customer satisfaction vortex seems inevitable.

This vortex seems to be powered by information overload – also known as "infoxication" and "infobesity" (which are fun terms to throw around). However, even as far back as the 1960s, information overload came with the warning that "when information overload occurs, it is likely that a reduction in decision quality will occur." Bertram Gross, a professor of political science at Hunter College, made that pronouncement back in 1964, and it's as true today as it was then – perhaps more so, given how readily available data has become and, as a result, how dependent businesses have become on it.

We have to be cautious and take steps to ensure that we balance data against common sense to make rational judgments in the best interests of customers. Every company, organization, executive and team needs to be able to judge how much measurement and information is needed before the mountain of data starts to push decisions past the boundaries of what's in the best interests of the overall customer base.

Otherwise, there's a risk of building a data monster that will just need to constantly be fed more and more, and things will get out of control until the monster eats everything – including your company.

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