Are You Like the IRS?

Published on February 2, 2006

In an effort to keep tax payers honest, the IRS is stepping up both its audit and customer service efforts at the same time. Interestingly, the IRS has created the position of Tax Advocate, an individual who monitors how tax payers are treated and makes recommendations to the IRS on how to improve its customer service.

Granted, not many of us would have a positive mental picture of the IRS when it comes to defining good customer service. However, we may want to think about taking a page from their book.

Who in your organization is an advocate for your customers? Who is checking on what the customer has to go through in using your products and services? Who is fighting for their cause in the midst of your pressures to decrease costs and improve productivity?

Decreasing costs and improving productivity at the expense of the customer is not a formula for success. In fact, is it a valid indicator that your business is at risk of hitting hard times.

There are many examples today of valued customers leaving long time vendors because of poor service. Case in point is my defection from American Airlines. As a frequent business traveler who usually travels on full fare coach tickets, American Airlines reached a nadir in its customer service which forced me to make a reluctant change. Interestingly, in the last 2 months I have spoken to 10 other frequent flyers who have also defected from American Airlines. Funny thing about these defections. Does American Airlines realize we left? Apparently not because no one has contacted us to find out what caused us to leave. Or, worse yet, they just don’t care.

If American Airlines had a customer advocate monitoring things, do you think we would have defected? Hard to say. What we can say is there probably would have been a better chance of us not defecting with a customer advocate in place because the customer service problems we experienced will hopefully have been uncovered and dealt with… assuming the customer advocate is empowered to facilitate changes and is listened to by management.

Who is your customer advocate? Are you listening to those who deal with your customer’s day in and day out? Are you listening and responding to your customer’s needs.

If the IRS feels it needs to address this situation when it is the only game in town, it is a sure bet that anyone who competes for a living must do the same thing.

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