Customer Service

Developing Effective Operations (Customer Service)

Customer Service – Is the provision of service to customers before during and after purchase to a standard that meets customer expectations. Levels of customer service will vary dependent on product, industry and customer. For example an expert might need less customer service than a novice. An example of customer service might be seen in the following situations:

  • Pre Sales Service – Advice on the range of options available and advantages and disadvantages of different models.
  • Service at Time of Purchase - Final assessment that the product meets customer expectations, explanation of different purchasing methods available.
  • After Sales Service – Help line or web service to answer important queries about setup or operation as well as returns and maintenance.

Methods of Meeting Expectations

Market Research – Understanding the needs and expectations of customers by asking them directly or using an intermediary. Unless a business understand the needs and expectations of its customers it can never hope to fulfill them. This means communication with customers and analysis of the results. Some strategies can be used regardless of the results returned from customer surveys and questionnaires. Put customer service as number one priority. Making customer service a major business priority is a good way of achieving good customer service since it is ingrained into the fabric of your company.

Training - Staff must know what is expected of them otherwise they will let the business down with poor customer service. Staff must know what good customer service means to you otherwise they cannot provide the service required in the industry. They also must have the power to be able to make small customer pleasing decisions without the need to constantly ‘check with their manager’.

Use of Quality Assurance and Quality Control - Maintaining good quality standards throughout the production process is key to achieving satisfied customers.

Quality Standards - Customers need to know what to expect from the business they are buying from, it allows them to compare you to other companies and make complaints when their expectations have not been met.

Monitoring and Improving Customer Service

Here are some of the most utilized methods:

Satisfaction Level Surveys - Provide detailed feedback that can be stored on a database and analysed for a number of uses. For example Thomas Cook will survey people coming back from holiday to check that they have enjoyed their stay. Anything flagged to them will be passed to the relevant party to allow them to improve.

Focus Groups - Provide useful insights to customers views and experiences. Each member of the group will relay their experiences to the rest of the group allowing for detailed feedback and reactions from other group members.

Tracking Surveys - Carried out over a period of time with the same customers, used to check whether the level of service is improving. They can also be used with different customers to see whether there is variation in different areas of the business i.e. geographical variation.

Instant Feedback - Using technologies to provide a wide range of customer service tools. As well as internet forms it also allows for customer service to be accessible 24/7 and more personalized to the customer.

Customer Service - Overview

The Institute of Customer Service (ICS) undertakes regular surveys of large representative samples of the UK customer base. Using this information the ICS has found the following 10 priorities for customer service.

  • 1. Overall quality of the product or service
  • 2. Being treated as a valued customer
  • 3. Speed of service
  • 4. Friendliness of Staff
  • 5. Efficient handling of complaints
  • 6. Accurate information provided in response to enquiries
  • 7. Competence of staff
  • 8. Ease of doing business
  • 9. Being kept informed
  • 10. Helpfulness of staff

How to achieve good customer service

Some business consultants believe that there are a set of rules that govern good customer service.

  • 1. Answer the telephone quickly with minimal key presses
  • 2. Don’t make promises you cannot keep
  • 3. Listen to customers, feedback can be used to improve the service
  • 4. Deal with complaints efficiently
  • 5. Be helpful even if there is no immediate profit to be made
  • 6. Recruit staff with the right attitude and train them
  • 7. Go the extra mile
  • 8. Add ins something extra, i.e. free postage and packaging on the internet.

Benefits of good customer service

  • Better customer service can give competitive advantage and lead to higher profits
  • Good customer service may differentiate from other firms in the market
  • Slashed prices and promotions may bring in new customer but good customer service will bring them back again
  • Happy customers will pass on positive feedback to others
  • Good customer service can become a USP which can justify higher prices.

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