The 20/5 Rule of Customer Service

On average, when people are asked to share their experiences, they share 20 negative experiences vs. 5 awesome experiences – this is the 20/5 rule of customer service.

customer service rule

The 20/5 Rule is simple to understand and everyone instinctively knows it to be true. It focuses on what people talk about – what they tell others about you. It focuses on “Awesome Customer Experiences” as opposed to “Terrible Customer Experiences.”

Here is a simple test you can give your own team sometime – I guarentee it will be enlightening! Here’s how it works..

  • Give everyone two sheets of paper with the numbers 1 through 20 listed down the left side
  • Ask them to take the first sheet and label it “Awful and Ugly Experiences”
  • Take the second sheet of paper and label it “Incredibly Awesome and Memorable Experiences”
  • Now ask them to start writing about their experiences on both sheets – without lots of detail but some highlights they remember about them
  • Give them 20 minutes total time – asking them to complete as much as they can on both sheets
  • Collect all the papers and total up the numbers in both columns for the group – the ratio will be very close to 20/5

When you discuss this with your team you may find some very interesting comments focused around two primary areas:

1. It was very easy to recall the awful experiences – they jumped to the front of their minds and were usually some of the most recent ones they had.

2. They had to really think hard about the awesome experiences – and it was actually quite difficult to recall some that were really incredible and memorable.

When they were thinking about the negative experiences you probably watched their faces grimace a bit and feel the tenseness in the room. But when they were writing about their positive experiences, they were happy and you could see some smiles on their faces.

The reason you get so few awesome experiences is because people don’t remember their great experiences – only their bad ones. Most customers are almost comatose when they interact with businesses because it’s the same old thing over and over again with no reason to perk up and say WOW this is incredible! They might be great – but they aren’t incredible and they aren’t memorable.

The best companies change that, they get WOW from their customers. Today, if you get WOW consistently and deeply you create advocates – The Holy Grail in today’s commoditized world. Because now these advocates can spread massive word of mouth about how awesome you are to thousands thanks to the power of social media. No longer do you need a massive amount of marketing, you just need more advocates/customers singing your praises and doing it for you!

The 64 thousand dollar question..

How much would your business change if you were one of these elite 5 companies that got a “wow” from your customers – got talked about – and created more advocates?

Give the test to your team and then create a strategy to be one of the 5 companies that create more advocates – and get their customers to do their marketing for them!

About the Author

Blaine W. Millet is the co-author of the leading edge book, “Creating and Delivering Totally Awesome Customer Experiences”. He also has over 25 years experience working with companies in the areas of strategy, customer experiences/loyalty, business operations, sales and management.

Walzak Consulting
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