How good customer service can be aided by great technology, yet it can never be replaced by it!
Good customer service is looking after your customer so their ‘user experience’ is a positive one each time they purchase goods and/or services from your company! However, for some companies and even industries, it is apparently not so straight forward. Reasons range from cost and poor leadership along with the perceived elasticity of goods and services provided. As the benefits of customer service are hard to measure with any level of accuracy, it often comes down to management preferences rather than any strategic dependency noted in the board room. This is a very dangerous norm to have in any strategic planning session. After all, do you credit the Sales department with repeat sale or do they secretly steal the limelight of a dedicated customer service team working out issues with customers who are not happy with your company; but stick it out thanks to the level of support they get from the customer service team. This means the well deserved credit the Sales team gets is actually a sharable commodity with the Customer Service team. Sadly, I’ve seen office politics claim many misallocations of credit over the years when senior management go looking for who to praise for a job well done!
Modern customer service as a concept has risen in the shadow of the Marketing era from the 1960s onwards and is growing up with other new functions like Marketing, IT and Technology in general. Technology has seen a rapid ascent that has seen it integrate with nearly all functions on the organizational chart creating efficiencies, productivity and cost savings along the way. It underpins a new way of doing business reaching more customers then ever was possible before the rise of the world wide digital economy. Impressive indeed, but does the story end there or is there a twist in the tale?
As ERP systems have matured followed by a generation of enterprise web applications, the resulting trading platforms have become a real business asset for small and large companies alike. The uses and application of technology have become as impressively creative as they are diverse! Nearly any type of activity has a digital relative that requires investment. That said, management enthusiasm over technology can lead to suppositions about who actually makes the customer happy and triggers the most profitable form of sale been the repeat sale. So, what needs to remain in focus when rising to todays competitive challenges by embracing customer facing technology in your business?
Firstly, I would say that the customer always needs to remain in focus ensuring product elasticity is measured correctly. You need to know the customer’s end point of tolerance for all products to ensure your marketing, sales and customer service approach is correct by company, and then refined by product. When you reach a point where the concept of customer service is seen as required, then the following guidelines will be useful in developing an approach to good customer service:
1. Have a means of contact for customer issues that provide comfort for customer that their query is been taken seriously. This starts with answering phone numbers if provided along with answering emails and online form submissions in a timely manner. If you have an instant messenger service on your site, make sure it manned 24 hours a day to service the world wide digital economy
2. Be respectful always, condescension is great way to loose customers and damage business reputation
3. Understand that digital reviews can destroy a business. If one dissatisfied customer is too busy to do a review on your company, the next dissatisfied customer may not and that review can potentially reach the devices of millions of internet users
4. Apply core company values to how you treat all your customers regardless of their size. Uniform application of values breeds confidence in your business and turns small customers into big ones!
5. Never assume a technological investment in customer care systems can replace the above guidelines! Technology enables you two widen your market reach and ’talk’ to more customers for your size, which aides your business once that technology is supporting the execution of solid customer care principles!
As the old saying goes “I don’t know what the secret to success is, but the secret to failure is trying to please everybody at once!” In a good customer service team, this saying describes a fine line they must walk in the execution of their daily duties. All customers that contact you may not be customers for life, but what all customers will appreciate is a respectful, available and consistent approach that breeds confidence and satisfaction in your company even if they only have a passing need for your product. Sooner or later, this strategy of positive user experience enabled by good customer care will produce new and growing custom because at the end of the day, people trust people, not technology to ensure their needs that brought them to your company’s door will be fulfilled!