In Customer Experience, Are Numbers More Powerful than Words?

Correct by 5%, words or numbers

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 11.33.15 AMYesterday I watched a basic accounting tutorial on Lynda.com that asserted that words were not as important as numbers because if we lost all the published novels in the world, life would go on; but if we lost all records of accounting, life would screech to a grinding halt (banks would not know how much money each customer had, businesses wouldn’t know who owed them money etc.)


First, I have to point out the fallacy of the numbers or words comparison because one is a theoretical unit and the other is a practical unit; novels apply words for a theoretical purpose (to imagine a world that doesn’t exist) and accounting applies numbers for a practical purpose (recording financial data in the real world). Losing each would be devastating in different ways, but the two cannot be compared. A more accurate comparison would pit accounting records against literature in the real world, like “business communication.”


Without customer service communications, we would lose track of customers, clumsily share information between business locations


And secondly, I have to say that I believe the world would grind to a screeching halt if we lost all practical literary records. Imagine what would happen without record of contracts, email correspondence or – gulp – customer service interactions! Without customer service communications, we would lose track of customers, clumsily share information between business locations, inaccurately assess the gravity of wider issues, forget how problems were resolved, wipe out valuable product feedback, and miss out on opportunities to create solutions that will keep customers coming back for more.


Case in point, a UK company called Npower was fined for billing and customer service failures late in 2015. The errors began four years’ prior as a result of an untested IT system that issued over 500,000 late bills “with little or no detail on how the totals had been calculated.” The organization chased debts that were in dispute and assigned credit failure to customers who never missed a payment. By December 2015, it was reported that Npower had “lost more than 300,000 customers in the UK and its profits…nosedived by 65pc since the issues began.”


While numbers can provide the backbone for business decisions, they are certainly not effective without the words to back them up. The strongest companies value numbers but with foresight to guard against catastrophic loss as experienced by Npower, and also have a robust two-way business-to-customer communication system in place.


It’s difficult to say how many potential customer-relations disasters may have been softened, avoided or even turned into a net-gain when customer communications are transparent, rapid and omni-channel.


When used strategically and tracked methodically, words really can save the day when numbers fail.


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About the Author: Leslie Maxwell

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