An Edward Lowe In-Depth Business Builder
There is a revolution where customers reward the companies that satisfy their needs and expectations and attack those that are not responsive to their needs. Learn how to set up a customer service initiative in your company using effective techniques.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE GETTING STARTED
What is Customer Service?
"As the Interactive Age arrives, every enterprise will have to learn how to treat different customers differently."
—Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, writing in their book "Enterprise One To One"
How does your company meet a customer's needs?
If you started a business 10 years ago, you'd probably give an indirect answer. You might say that by gaining market share and managing sales and distribution, you could satisfy your customers. If buyers' needs were met, your business would presumably grow and prosper.
Today, however, meeting the needs and expectations of customers requires that you know your customers — as individuals. That means consistently collecting their input, removing barriers to communicate with them, and taking steps to foster a long-term relationship with them rather than just a limited, transactional one. If potential customers grow overwhelmed, confused, or simply can't find what they want, your high level of service is the "ace in the hole" that'll keep them from fleeing.
In creating and evaluating your customer service plan, avoid too much internal analysis. Instead, defer to customers' perceptions of efficiency, responsiveness, and courtesy. Your own hunches, biases, or interpretations shouldn't interfere with the unfiltered knowledge that your customers can provide. They are your ultimate judges.
Customer Service as a Competitive Advantage
With even small businesses investing heavily in technology — from database software to Web site development — traditional feature and cost advantages no longer provide a sustainable competitive advantage. More fast-growth companies are focusing on quality of service to distinguish themselves from the rest. They are talking to their customers to determine what's important to them and how they can further add value. Smart companies now strive to be an extension of their customers, thereby fostering more loyal buyers who're less apt to change vendors.
Benefits of an Effective Customer Service Initiative
Here's how you and your business can benefit from a customer service plan:
Minimize stress — If you're dealing with customers directly, especially unhappy ones, some stress will naturally result. You can reduce it if you develop a systematic way of dealing with your customers.
Higher efficiencies — When you focus on areas that directly affect customer satisfaction, you can use your resources more efficiently. An effective customer service program provides a game plan for working on those areas most important to your customers, while reducing distractions that can derail your progress.
Increased morale and satisfaction — When you're implementing a plan that's designed to delight your customers, then you can rally your employees more easily and inject more meaning and gratification into their jobs.
Survival — You need effective customer service to turn your high-growth business into a viable long-term competitor. With increasing globalization and the knocking down of trade barriers, the race for customers is fierce. There are plenty of suppliers eager to satisfy customers. If you're not one of them, you may not be around for long.
5 STEPS TO CREATE YOUR CUSTOMER SERVICE PLAN
While there's no single blueprint for an effective customer service program, here are five steps that you can take:
Assess Your Customer Service Quotient
Understand Your Customers' Requirements
Create Your Customer Vision and Service Policies
Deal Effectively With Your Customers
Educate Your Staff