Last Updated May 23, 2011 7:09 AM EDT
Amazon.com, a perennial high-scorer for its customer service, recently announced it would add new service jobs in Huntington, W.Va., and Grand Forks, N.D.
An Amazon spokesman said the company wanted to create "the Earth's most customer-centric company."
Who wouldn't want to be recognized as being one of the best companies for customer service? (And, as a point of clarification, Friday's list was indeed supposed to be the best -- and technically, being the worst of the best is still something noteworthy.)
The question, is: How do you know you need to add more staff?
If your customers complain. Long call center wait times can be measured, both internally and externally. If your customers are fuming about having to spend half an hour on "hold" then your call center might be understaffed. Similarly, if your employees are sending out a high volume of form letters that don't address the actual problem -- and generating complaints because of it -- it could be a sign of trouble.
If your customer-service department is overtasked. If your customer-service jobs are burnout positions -- places where attrition rates are far higher than in the rest of the company, then that could also be a sign that it's not adequately staffed. If the folks in the service department complain about low morale and long hours, there may just be too few of them.
If your service scores are slipping. Falling scores from your customers can also be a sign that your service department isn't pulling its weight. If your company's marks have fallen off the charts recently, check the staffing levels in the service department. Have you recently downsized there, too? If so, that could be your problem.
Bringing in new employees may not solve your customer service woes, but it could address them in a meaningful way. And who knows, you might someday refer to your company as "the Earth's most customer centric."
Your customers would like that.
Christopher Elliott is a consumer advocate, syndicated columnist and curator of the On Your Side wiki. He also covers customer service for the Mint.com blog. You can follow Elliott on Twitter, Facebook or his personal blog, Elliott.org or email him directly.