Service Culture Skills, Inc. DBA Communico
The word Communico, by definition (Latin), means “to communicate.” Its roots stem from the British Isles. In 1979, the American subsidiary of Management and Staff Training (MAST), British Communico Ltd., was founded in Salisbury, Connecticut. For over 30 years, Communico has helped companies transform their interpersonal communication. Communication is the foundation of organizational culture. Communico partners with organizations in embracing a service mindset that builds lasting relationships with customers and employees.
Initial focus and at the heart of our commitment is The MAGIC® Service Culture System. MAGIC, which stands for Make A Great Impression on the Customer, is an integrated system of assessment, training and consulting that ensures consistently exceptional service. Every element of this system is grounded in common-sense models and carefully tailored to meet specific client needs. The MAGIC Service Culture includes 33 Points describing specific behaviors required to optimize customer experience. The intended results of using the 33 Points are measurably improved service ratings, employee performance, and customer loyalty. Customer loyalty is the most important outcome because it is a predictor of financial success. (Disco, 2017)
Communico was owned by a British company (and was formerly known as British Communico Ltd.) until 1988. This British company had a telephone customer relations program that became the core of Communico’s first MAGIC program.
MAGIC and the acronym MAGIC evolved during an emotional meeting with Tom Larkin, Sandy Wilder, Diane Berenbaum, and Barry Arye. It was emotional because we wanted to measure an interaction. Communico had experience measuring the quality and speed of reading and comprehension. We wanted to apply a measure to the quality of communication also.
In 1981, Communico moved to Greenwich, CT and a partnership was formed in 1985 among Barry L. Ayre (founder), Thomas S. Larkin and Carl E. Rohde. Our clients included Fortune 500 companies and the private school sector, where we taught reading and study skills. We subsequently sold the schools business in 1989.
Diane T. Berenbaum joined the company in 1986 and became a partner in 1988, the same year that the company became independent of the parent organization. The company was officially renamed Communico Ltd. Mr. Rohde resigned from Communico in 1987.
Sanford C. Wilder joined the company in 1984 and also became a partner in 1988. Westport, Connecticut became the new home for Communico when Sandy became President and Chief Executive Officer in 1993. Together with Tom Larkin and Diane Berenbaum, Sandy leads the team dedicated to inspiring organizations to make a difference.
In 2009, Sandy left Communico to pursue other interests. Tom Larkin assumed the role of President and Chief Executive Officer. In 2017, Diane retired; 2020 Tom Larkin retired.
In August of 2020, Wally Hauck, a long-time Independent Contractor of Communico Ltd. and Gregg Barratt, employee and previous contractor, started a company called Service Culture dba Communico. They carry on the work and joy of MAGIC today.
Link Between Customer Satisfaction and Financial Measures
Numerous studies by other organizations have also shown that companies known for customer satisfaction outperform their industry in key financial measures such as average annual sales growth and average return on equity (Compustat Inc. Company Reports and Business Week March 12, 1990, article entitled King Customer: At Companies that Listen Hard and Respond Fast, Bottom Lines Thrive). Research thirty years later confirms this same result. (Disco, 2017)
Foundational Research in the 1980’s and early 1990’s
Communico conducted research to update the British program and adapt it to meet the needs of the U.S. market. We read a wide variety of books, watched videos and read research studies on customer service, interpersonal communication and telephone interactions.
A Sample of Research Studies that Influenced MAGIC Development
• William Wilsted, an advisor to Ernst & Young, surveyed banking, high tech and manufacturing customers. He found that these people considered “the personal touch” to be the most important element of service. He defined “personal touch” as how committed a company representative is to a client and whether s/he remembers and uses the customer’s name
• Opinion Research Corp. of Princeton, NJ surveyed 400 executives of the nation’s largest companies. They found that how much a company “cares about its customer” is as important as prompt and efficient service.
• A survey by Burger King found that customers ranked courtesy number one (over speed of service, which used to be number one).
• Fortune Magazine released The Service 500 in June 1990 (Top 500 diversified service companies). In an article entitled, “What Customers Really Want”, they highlight some of the organizations that made the list. Mike Wright, The CEO of Super Valu (number 3 on the list), notes that “customers want empathy, and not even the world’s most sophisticated computer can provide that.”
• The Service Edge by Ron Zemke and Dick Shaaf clarifies a 5-Point service recovery system.
– Apology – more powerful when it is in the first person (“We’re sorry” lacks sincerity).
– Urgent reinstatement.
– Empathy – “Expressing compassion may be the mother lode of all service gold.” The customer feels heard, affirmed, and cared about.
– Symbolic Atonement.
• Babson College study on rudeness: More than 50% of those surveyed said they get angry or upset when treated rudely. About half said that they get rude in return. Most people feel good when they meet or speak with courteous people.
• Dr. Denis Waitley, a specialist in understanding the relationship between self-development and high performance, expressed the following themes in his work: “Self-management and self-determination allows one to be successful;” “When you listen you learn more”; “no one is more important than someone else.”
Return on Investment
TARP (Technical Assistance Research Programs) has conducted research on the link between good customer service and return on investment. They found that better customer service leads to increased sales from existing customers and new customers, which in turn yields significant return on investment (e.g., automobile and consumer durable goods companies average over 100% ROI on customer service).
Impact on Market Share and Business Performance
The most well-known research about quality and market share was conducted by the Strategic Planning Institute as part of the Profit Impact of Market Strategies Program (PIMS). The conclusion reached by this study: In the long run, the most important single factor affecting a business unit’s performance is the “relative quality” of its products and services (level of perceived quality relative to competitors). Any differentiation in service will be a factor for creating loyalty.
The Representative’s Demonstration of Behaviors Impacts Customer Perception of the Company
The Fraser Group further analyzed the performance of the representative and measured the relationship between the specific skills of the rep and the customer’s overall assessment of the representative. The studies showed that the top skills/behaviors are (see Chart 5):
1. Knowledge/Ability to solve problem or answer questions
2. Caring about the problem or concern
3. Speaking in an understandable manner, using understandable words
The Fraser Group also linked Communico’s 33 Points to those skills/behaviors that have the greatest impact on customer perception of the overall experience with the company.
In 2008 – 2010, Communico did additional research to ensure the standard reflected customer perceptions, and higher service expectations. We adapted the scorecard and made additions/changes to reflect exceptional respect and accountability behaviors.
Research on Empathy: Dr. Gerard Egan, Professor of Psychology and Organizational Studies at Loyola University. Author of The Skilled Helper: A Systematic Approach to Helping.
The 33 Points were refined over the first few years, based on client input. Initially, Communico uncovered 31 elements that created an impression over the phone. We later edited points and added new ones. We introduced the official “33 Points of MAGIC” (with The Five MAGIC Steps) in 1989.
Why Five MAGIC Steps?
After finalizing the 33 Points of MAGIC, we knew that the Points needed to be broken into categories to ensure understanding and retention. Since Communico began as a communication skills training organization (Communico is Latin for “to communicate”), we were aware of research on memory and the brain.
The human brain can only retain 7 + or – 2 bits of information at a time. Therefore, people are not able to remember 33 elements. The 33 Points must be broken into categories or steps with no more than 7 + or – 2 items in each category.
Communico developed The 5 MAGIC Steps to mirror the flow of a customer contact and then incorporated the 33 points into these steps.
Validation of Quality Service Index
Customer Perception and QSI Categories
The Quality Service Index shows the impact of The 33 Points on an organization’s culture. The verbiage on the QSI shows that customer perception is affected by the demonstration of MAGIC points:
To ensure that these perceptions were accurate, Communico worked with several clients to validate them. These clients (in the health care and financial services industry) conducted customer research to see if there was alignment between actual customer perceptions and the QSI categories.
They surveyed random customers at the end of telephone contacts and asked them to describe the impression that the company representative made. They were given five response choices (the QSI categories: Discouraging, Indifferent, Routine, Very Good and Exceptional). These same telephone calls were also recorded so that the company could rate the calls using The 33 Points of MAGIC.
The clients’ perceptions matched the category on The 33 Points (i.e., calls that clients rated Routine scored 23 – 25 on The 33 Points, and so on).
This Culture Makes You Money and This Culture Costs You Money
Market Research on Customer Value Management
The Fraser Group, a market research organization based in Indianapolis, has conducted multiple research projects on customer value management. They found that the performance of an organization (call center or any service-focused organization) is significantly correlated with the likelihood the customer will:
• recommend the client’s product or service to others
• continue to purchase the product or service
The hierarchy is as follows: The experience with the telephone representative is correlated with the customer’s overall experience with the Organization, which is then correlated with the customer’s likelihood to either 1) recommend the company to others or 2) continue purchasing from that company. (See Chart 1 for a graphic representation of this hierarchy.)
In other Fraser Group studies, the relationship between the overall experience with a company was correlated to the customer’s likelihood to recommend the company and continue purchasing. (See Charts 2, 3 and 4.)
Communico’s client list continues to grow with Fortune 500 companies in a variety of industries including health care, utilities, financial services, insurance, mortgage servicing, information technology, hospitality, consumer products and other service companies.