In customer satisfaction research conducted in recent years, one theme has emerged: the essential importance of superior customer service.
Most companies believe they provide a unique offering to their customers. In many industries, a company achieves this uniqueness by delivering customer service that is superior to its competitors.
This leads us to the question, “What does superior customer service mean?”
While the details are industry and even firm specific, the basic principles can be generalized. The following list provides a good starting point for thinking about customer service research and how it can help your company deliver superior service.
1. Always try to exceed customer expectations. Whether customer expectations are set by the firm or by a competitor, exceeding these will reflect on your company’s reputation and leave a lasting impression.
To achieve this, you must have a strong understanding of customer needs as these dictate expectations. Conducting a customer service survey will provide you with a true understanding of these needs. Managing expectations up front sets the stage for you to exceed customer expectations later in the relationship.
2. Track changes in customer expectations over time. Any successful company must learn to identify and adjust to changing trends, many of which will be reflected in customer expectations. Measure customer satisfaction with tracking research in order to monitor trends over time.
3. Make a strong first impression. The first contact with a customer (the “moment of truth”) often sets the tone for their lasting impression of the company. Customer Satisfaction Research shows that how a customer feels about a transaction tends to be more important than the product or service purchased.
4. Be accessible, approachable, and responsive. If your customer finds it difficult to get in touch with someone at your company, they are less likely to do so, and the prospect of developing a strong, long-term relationship built on customer service satisfaction is greatly diminished. Make a habit of regularly reaching out to your customers to enhance customer service satisfaction and build lasting relationships.
5. Determine how your well company delivers. Initial customer satisfaction research will provide a baseline against which to measure future improvement initiatives. Regularly conduct a service satisfaction survey to help identify specifically what attributes of the product/service are of greatest importance to customers, how the company performs against those attributes and how both change over time.
6. Solicit input from your service personnel. Most public-contact employees are self-motivated to achieve customer service satisfaction. They are the best source for identifying roadblocks to superior service delivery (too much paperwork, difficult return policies, lack of information, interdepartmental miscommunication, inability to schedule service call times, etc.) and what upsets customers most.
Spotlighting and addressing these issues not only improves customer service satisfaction but front-line employee attitudes as well.
7. Improve employee satisfaction. Regularly conduct an employee attitude survey to measure and improve employee satisfaction. This will, in turn, have an impact on customer service satisfaction. More satisfied employees will produce higher quality products and provide better service to your customers.
These seven strategies provide a generalized approach for exceeding customer expectations and achieving superior service. An ongoing customer satisfaction research program will help to identify the issues facing your particular business, as well as their relative importance to customers.
Through such a program, a full-service marketing research firm could help identify the specific improvements that will have the greatest impact on improving overall customer service satisfaction.
About the Author
Brian Backer is a project manager with Polaris Marketing Research, specializing in customer service satisfaction research. Backer can be reached at the Atlanta marketing research firm by phone at 404-816-0353 during normal business hours.