Customer service is king

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“The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best but legendary” (Sam Walton, founder of Walmart)

In an increasingly competitive environment, keeping your customer base is a given for business survival. We also live in a world of increasing self-absorption – witness the “selfie” phenomenon – so giving good customer service becomes crucial.

Good service or bad – how word spreads

Research shows that customers who experience poor customer service tell between nine to ten other people of this experience. Conversely, when they experience good customer service they tell five people. This is magnified in the age of social media.

So how do you ensure good customer service?

Let’s start with where many of us find ourselves today – the call centre telling us in a computerised voice that “your call is important to us”, it then gives you several options none of which is appropriate to your concerns and finally leaves you holding on for what seems a lifetime. If you do get through, the voice at the other end invariably puts you through to someone else until finally the phone goes dead. A few days later you receive an sms or email asking you how you rated the customer service.

Technology such as a call centre can be an aid to improving customer service but it needs to be put within a framework. You need to set up a system whereby customer complaints will be effectively dealt with. Then you need to train the staff who will handle complaints. This staff needs to:

  • Understand your business so they have insight into complaints.
  • Communicate with the customer. If solving the problem takes time, go back to the customer frequently so they feel you are taking their complaint seriously and are dealing with it.
  • Have listening skills so they can grasp what they are being told. It is frustrating to feel that you have not been understood.
  • Have empathy, understand the customer’s mindset (is he or she angry for example). Remember a self-absorbed person wants to feel that you take their complaint seriously and they want to feel they are dealing with a person and not a computer.
  • Be persistent so that the customer’s problem is resolved.

Customer retention v customer acquisition

This may seem like a large undertaking but it is worth it. Businesses with good customer service stay close to their clients, learn from their interaction with them and ultimately improve the organisation. It costs 5 times more to acquire new customers than it does to retain existing ones – so invest in keeping the customers you already have.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied upon as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

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