Editor’s note: A version of this article by Shep Hyken appeared on his Customer Service Blog. Read the original version here.

I’ve written about the customer service gap before. It can be the gap between you and your competitors. You want the gap to be wide, which means your business puts itself ahead of the competition.

Another version of the gap focuses on narrowing the distance between you and your customers. The closer you are to your customers, and the more you meet their needs, the narrower the gap the gap. This also puts your competition further away from your customers.

But there’s a third version of the gap — the difference between the quality of service company leaders think they provide versus what customers believe they receive.

Several years ago, I read an startling report from Bain and Company that found 80 percent of companies say they deliver superior customer service, yet only 8 percent of customers agree. Is there that big of a disconnect? Is the gap really this big?

There are other studies that have similar findings, although not quite as severe as the numbers from Bain and Company. Even if that number was cut in half, it would still be a problem. In a perfect world, there wouldn’t be a gap. In a truly customer-focused organization, you might even see the gap reversed. In other words, the customer perceives the service they receive from a company is even better than that company’s leadership believes it to be. Maybe that’s because that company won’t settle for anything other than the best and always strives to deliver a superior level of service — never settling for mediocrity, never resting on their laurels.

Here are a few ideas for how you can avoid, or eliminate, this gap:

  1. Survey your customers. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. You can use several different survey questions and techniques but consider this suggestion: Keep the surveys short. You stand a greater chance of customers returning the survey if it takes less than a minute or two to complete.
  2. Ask your customers directly. Simply ask customers after they finish their interaction with your employees. This is a form of an exit interview. Again, keep it short and you’re likely to get more responses.
  3. Mystery shop. Don’t hire mystery shoppers, but have company leaders actually pick up the phone and call their own employees. Find out how easy it is to get to the right person, how long a caller must sit on hold hold while waiting for customer service, and more. In other words, have them play a simple version of “Undercover Boss.”

Don’t fall victim to the customer service gap. What you hope your customers will perceive as good customer service, and how they perceive it, are two different things. By narrowing the gap, you can ensure that what you want customers to experience is, in fact, what they experience.

Read the original on Shep Hyken’s Customer Service Blog

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