What is Customer Service Really?
What is Customer Service?
Customer service is seeking out or producing the best available quality of goods and services and offering them to customers at a reasonable price and within a reasonable timeframe. Customer service also involves offering a friendly, knowledgeable and timely interaction with customers who approach the business for information or purchases. In addition, if there is a problem, or further requirements, then speedy and courteous attention is offered. In short, customer service is treating the customer and their requirements with respect.
What Customer Service is Not
When you enquire about a businesses' goods and services you might expect to speak to staff members who are knowledgeable about the products, actually enjoy serving customers and have a desire to help you. Too often however it's apparently not cost effective for a business to properly select and train staff members to serve their customers armed with the appropriate knowledge and with a smile.
Some businesses simply appear to be customer hostile on all fronts and it's very difficult to find the customer service amongst the ways in which the business wants the customers to serve them - mostly with their money. One example of a "great deal" - 20% off your bill if you pay on time. Then you get to the small print. Oh yes, you have to sign up for years. If you don't pay on time there is a payment penalty and the best one, if you break the contract there is an exit fee. You want paper statements? An extra fee. You want to speak to a person rather than a machine? More fees. Some companies even charge you to pay your bill. Is it any wonder then that many people feel immediately suspicious when offered a "great deal". That's not customer service.
When you approach a company to resolve a problem you have with their goods or services and they make it very difficult for you to actually contact them - for example waiting hours on the phone to speak to someone, or when you get through being told that because of company policy they can't help you - that's not customer service either.
Developing Customer Relationships
Sales 101: people like to do business with people they like and trust. It makes sense then that a company should develop positive relationships with their customers rather than annoy and upset or possibly even infuriate them. There are of course exceptions. If you sell an essential service such as power, or produce very popular items, then developing relationships with your customers may not be as critical. For most businesses however, having positive relationships with customers is vital to the company's continued viability. Providing good customer service is crucial in developing positive customer relationships.
So What is the Recipe for Customer Service?
1. A quality product or service.
2. A fair price.
3. An ability to listen to the customer's requirements and fulfil them beyond their expectations.
4. A knowledgeable, friendly, and well trained team of staff members
5. Management that understands that customers are an asset, not a liability. Management that actually exhibits this commitment in their behaviour and not just in their mission statement.
6. Communication: multiple channels thereof, in person, online, via phone. A fast response to customer queries and complaints.
Why Would a Business Want to Improve Customer Service?
Give that so many companies are getting away with offering little or no customer service, is it worth the cost of being different? There are two good reasons. One is the ease with which a company can develop a bad (or good) reputation via the internet. The other is the fact that as so many companies appear to exhibit almost total disregard for the customer's interests, to actually understand what customer service is, and to offer customers attention, respect and a reasonable deal instead of just talking about it, would have to be a unique selling feature for the customer service oriented business.