Since customer service is such an important aspect of business, I will be writing articles over the course of the next several months on this topic. The articles may be a refresher for some, and I hope will provide new ways to improve service for others. Let's begin.
Businesses need customers. Yet, experience suggests that customer service is not always right within businesses. We hear complaints from customers concerning: poor face-to-face service, negative telephone etiquette, inappropriate handling of complaints, and bored customer service personnel. However, when quality customer service is provided we learn that customers are happy, moral is enhanced, the business is well regarded, and the business's bottom line is improved.
When I facilitated customer service workshops business owners consistently told me, after customer service training and after all other factors were eliminated, their revenue was increased by 6-12 percent. This suggests Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) can turn negative approaches to customer service into positive ones.
Who are our Customers
Customers come to us in two ways. The first and most obvious way is through our doors, the internet, emails and over the telephone. These are our coveted external customers. The second way, and not so obvious, is through our organization. They are people we work with daily. They are our internal customers including our boss, manager, team leader, and colleagues. When we relate to customers whether internally or externally our responsibility remains the same which is to treat them with kindness, respect and dignity.
We are all customers as each of us purchase goods or services from others. When we, as a customer, enter any type of business, we want to be treated fairly, respectfully, and honestly. We expect those who serve us know something about the products, listen to our needs and wants, and approach us with a positive and optimistic attitude. We remember these people. The same is true for customers who enter our place of business. They remember the CSRs who treated them well. This exchange between the customer and those who serve is one of the heart – it touches the level of feelings. Maya Angelou put it this way, “People will forget what you said...People will forget what you did...But people will never forget how you made them feel."
So, what we do, how we do it, and how it makes us feel, influences our relationships with customers; and, it appears there is little difference between what we expect as a customer and what our customers expect of us. When FACSi(a) researched what customers expected from CSRs it found they wanted: quality service, a listening ear, an optimistic attitude, positive approach, and solutions to their problems or at least a referral to where service may be obtained. It also found that customers expect service providers to be knowledgeable, well organized, honest, and fair.
There is something else going on with today's customers, and that is their relationship with the internet. With the advent of the internet customers have access to information about the products they want and hence are more knowledgeable about them. Sometimes because of their "Google" search they know more about the product than the CSR. They often know where the products come from, what they are made of, how they are made, whether they are ethically produced and how they compare with other products.
Customers are also more discerning in their choice of service and are looking for a positive customer experience, want a personal touch, seek quality products and value for money. They will go where their needs are met, so it is increasingly important for businesses and CSRs to meet these evolving customer requirements. (For more on this see my article on "The Emerging Retail Experience.)
As businesses provide better service expectations increase and in turn customers expect an increase in the level of service. Someone once said: “Every experience we have as a customer sets a benchmark against which the next experience is judged. This means that we expect better and better service." Darrell Rigby put it this way, "Each wave of change doesn't eliminate what comes before it, but it reshapes the landscape and redefines consumer expectations, often beyond recognition. Retailers relying on earlier formats either adapt or die out."
This suggests that each time businesses improve the customer experience, customers will come back to the business. It also suggests the businesses must consistently up-grade everyone in the organization to meet new and emerging customer expectations..
What is Customer Service
Now we come to the basic question: Just what is customer service?
Customer Service simply refers to managing all those points of exchange between the customer and the business. These exchanges are often called “moments of truth”. They determine whether the customer will be pleased or not. So, every time someone meets an internal or external customer, customer service begins.
The CSR, in whatever position, is the conduit through which the organization is known, and is for the customer the ‘face’ of the organization. Every time an individual meets a customer the stage is set for an impression of service and a “moment of truth” (first coined by Jan Carlzon, president of the Scandinavian Airline SAS). The complete sequence of “moments of truth” – all those acts performed by those who contribute to the customer experience- become known as the full “cycle of service”.
Moments of truth may occur hundreds of times within the cycle of service, for example the cycle of service could include: the customers perception of how the manufacturer packaged the goods and how they are showcased on the shelves; how the customer relates to the store environment and how the CSR treats the customer over the telephone, when he browses for items, approaches the counter, refers the customer to someone else, or when the customer pays for the goods. The cycle of service covers the whole of the customer experience. The Scandinavian Airline discovered more than 50,000 occasions when staff interacted with customers. Each interaction became a “moment of truth.”
In any given day of service, the CSRs can enhance moments of truth by: wishing someone a “nice day,” paying attention to detail, making the most of a bad experience, saying "thank you" as if they mean it, and remembering a regular customer's name. This is common courtesy and just being kind to people, one person at a time.
Author: Richard P. Fontanie
My next article will explore the types of relationships we have with customers