For some time now, in the notoriously non-service oriented UK, Customer service has finally been seen as the behaviour that can have the most significant impact on a company’s top and bottom line performance. In our own experience at numéro with existing clients and new customers, we’ve found that one of the key characteristics of consistently successful businesses is their willingness and ability to create and implement a set of brand defining, distinctive and hard-to-replicate capabilities – which are led by those related to customer service – that set them apart from other rivals in their chosen market places.
To those of us who have suffered continual poor service as consumers in the UK, it is no great surprise that recent research into the behaviour of top-performing companies shows that customer service is critical to developing and consistently delivering a strong, branded customer experience. In turn, this is a key contributor to creating strong customer loyalty and higher lifetime customer value. In short, the way you look after your customers – existing and new - often spells the difference between being a mediocre company with poor performance and being a market leader, whose customers come back to them time and time again.
So now that we’ve finally accepted that providing great service is absolutely critical, there is bad news for those companies thinking that getting it right is a quick fix. The truth is that it is one of the most difficult things to achieve. This is reflected in the fact that what most companies often believe is “good” service may not be held in the same regard by their customers.
In fact, it’s not at all uncommon for companies to spend huge sums on new customer service technology solutions and processes – believing they are improving their capabilities in this critical area, only to see customer complaints and defections rise – because they have forgotten to focus on customers first and then look at processes and technology to support an excellent customer service philosophy. The priority and focus should be: People, Processes and Technology.
When looking at how your customers feel about you, in order to understand how you can serve them better, perhaps the following areas should be looked at carefully;
How satisfied are customers with the different methods of customer service that you use or could use?
What impact does technology and its’ deployment really have on service quality?
What do they find most frustrating aspects when they deal with customer service representatives?
How do they feel about the action you take when they have had a poor service experience?
As one of your customers, what do they feel are the most important aspects when providing a satisfying customer service experience?
Customer surveys should be run constantly but should be simple and unobtrusive. Above all, you must ensure that you do use the output to change behaviour and ensure your customers know this – in it’s own way, this can provide a closer bond when consumers know they are making a difference.
Responses from survey participants are always illuminating, and will suggest numerous opportunities for you to improve the way that you look after your consumers and how you handle and resolve customer issues. In this way, you can create some of the distinctive capabilities that are key factors in achieving high performance, at the same time as retaining and growing your customer base.
About Tim Easton:
Tim has been involved in the world of customer service for 20 years, much of it spent either in the FMCG sector or the IT marketplace. He has been a customer, consultant and supplier and hence has a well rounded perspective on what elements provide for well satisfied customers, whatever market place they are in. He has worked for multinationals such as HP and Sun and has operated in the US, Africa and Asia as well as in Europe.
Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2007
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