Customer Service - Quality is Not Enough

A Case for Survival

The importance of providing excellent service in today's ever-changing, competitive marketplace cannot be underestimated. Customers have become even more discerning and demanding and now that social media has revolutionised Word-of-Mouth, poor service is exposed almost immediately and can cripple a company fast.

Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends. Walt Disney

The quality of customer service can be affected by cumbersome policies, poor systems, staffing levels, etc., but understanding what customers really need is the quickest and easiest way to ensuring you stay in business.

Two Different Types of Needs

Customers judge service by two different types of needs - Practical and Personal. Quality in today's fast-changing, technological market is a given. If a company does not have a quality product or service, it will be difficult for them to stay in business. Excellent service however, is the factor that makes the difference. Today's customers are not only seeking quality to fulfil their needs for a product, they are also seeking reliability, trust, attention, and the respect they deserve.

Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers that boast about your project or service, and customers that bring friends with them. W. Edwards Deming

Practical Needs

Businesses need to be able to provide products and services that meet their customers’ specific needs.

Personal Needs

The fulfilment of Practical Needs is not enough to keep customers satisfied. A Personal Need refers to how customers like to be treated and spoken to, and especially how they feel about how they have been treated.

Meeting only one of these needs is not good enough. Imagine going for a haircut and the assistant keeps you waiting; is blunt and impersonal and then (if you hadn’t walked out yet), gives you an excellent haircut. They’ve met your Practical Needs but have completely ignored your Personal Needs.

Consider the opposite - As you enter the premises you are greeted with a smile; they remember your name; offer you a cup of tea; maintain friendly eye-contact; listen carefully to what you want, and overall make you feel very welcome. Then they give you a ‘nightmare’ haircut. Both Practical and Personal Needs must be met.

Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the client or customer gets out of it. Peter Drucker

What Do People Mean?

People often refer to service as being good or bad.To understand what people mean when they refer to the level of customer service received, think back to a time when you, as a customer, received excellent service and make a list of what the person did or said that made you perceive the service as excellent.You will probably be surprised at the absolute simplicity of the actions taken.Typically, people have said:

  • He greeted me.
  • She said she would call me and she did.
  • He said they would deliver by four and they did.
  • He took time to listen to me.
  • She thanked me.
  • They were cheerful and reasonably quick.
  • He looked up the address for me.
  • He took the time to explain the details to me.
  • She showed me how it worked.

Considering your personal experience of good customer service, ask yourself how you think the person who served you felt about their job.Almost always the answer is positive.It’s amazing how many just don’t see the connection between providing excellent customer service and creating job satisfaction and high morale.

It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages. Henry Ford

Poor Service

Now repeat the process but this time with a poor customer service experience. List the specific actions that were, or were not taken when you received bad service, in other words, describe what a person did or saidthat made you think the service was bad. When you have completed your list, gauge the impact on the company by answering the following questions:

  • How did you feel after the transaction?
  • Have you gone back to that organisation?
  • Have you told other people about your experience?
  • Have you posted any details of your experience on Facebook or on a Review Site?
  • How do you think the person who served you felt during and after the interaction?
  • Do you think that person enjoyed his or her job?

A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all. Michael LeBoeuf

So What Is Customer Service?

Having examined the impact of good and bad service, it’s important to understand what excellent customer service is and how to provide it. You can measure everything you and your staff do, including your systems, paperwork, policies, etc., against the following definition:

Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning. Bill Gates

Are You Ready?

Select your customer-facing staff carefully. Train them in good interpersonal skills and ensure that all senior personnel model the required behaviours.

The specific actions which exemplify good service are almost always relatively simple actions that are quick and easy to perform. It would be worth your while to make a list of simple actions or ideas that you could put into practice to ensure that you provide consistently good service to your customers. Even better would be to ask your staff to suggest and commit to these actions.

You have a much better chance of achieving good service values if you treat your staff the way you would like them to treat your customers. Russ Baleson

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