Sometimes giving good customer service doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
Customer service is a term that is used a lot in business, but it is more easily defined in situations where it is clearly lacking. Like good manners, good customer service can cost nothing and although it may not be immediately rewarded, the likelihood of obtaining repeat business or recommendations is increased.
The effect of poor customer service can be seen by examining refund statistics or cancelled orders. The impact of good customer service is often unseen but it can be a big multiplier. Research shows that 68% of customer defection is due to poor levels of customer service.
What Defines Customer Service?
Customer service can be as simple as treating customers in a friendly and courteous manner whilst demonstrating a clear knowledge of products and services and taking into consideration the needs of the customer. It is something that distinguishes a company from its competitors when it is done well and also when done poorly. Whilst customer service can be an intangible concept it is something that must be taught to all staff. It is not acceptable for a company to have one excellent individual who is able to interact with customers of all levels and really sell a business, only to be let down by a disinterested colleague with no product knowledge or interest in customers and their needs.
Can Customer Service Be Taught?
It is possible to instil the company values in all employees through a strong training programme. If staff want to work for a company and are enthused by what they do it is possible to achieve great things as a company. If staff appear bored or embarrassed by the core business activities then a company will struggle to succeed. Staff training can be used to develop a sense of pride in staff and this will help to a create a more effective workforce.
Why Is Customer Service So Important?
Good customer service is important to businesses because it defines their products and services in the market. In an industry where products are homogenised such as banking, it can be very difficult to distinguish between individual banks so customer service becomes an even greater consideration. A large number of major high street bank branches now have staff greeting customers in a reception area to try and help them find the most appropriate contacts within the bank and make their visit more efficient.
Satisfied customers are one of the biggest endorsements a company can have. The advance of technology means that it is relatively easy for customers to defect so companies need to protect themselves in advance. One of the complaints about banks was that due to the centralisation of services and increasing detachment between bank managers and clients, the concept of customer service had been rewritten.
The introduction of modern and efficient technology is critical to a company strategy to make it easy for staff to demonstrate their commitment to customers. A bank manager would no longer be expected to know every detail about a client and be able to use personal knowledge as a means to demonstrate this commitment as prompts can be obtained through the technology installed.
Customer Relationship Management Software
One way businesses have been able to reconnect with customers is by using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to streamline connections with customers. Sophisticated organisations use CRM software to log all contacts and to group them according to recent business activity or answers to survey questions. CRM software is a powerful tool as it enables businesses to categorise its customers and make contact in a way that demonstrates good quality customer service by focussing on the areas that are most relevant by different consumer groups.
Some CRM software is actually free to use such as FreeCRM whilst others such as ZohoCRM permit a limited number of users on their system for free. It is possible that by increasing the number of users, even free ones, companies can demonstrate their capability to carry online advertisements or generate referrals so although no direct income is raised the cost of providing this service is offset by an increase in indirect income.
Relationship With Marketing
Customer service is intrinsically linked with marketing as both are designed to improve the prospects of a company. Whilst marketing is a more strategic activity, customer service enhances the relationship with customers once they have made an initial enquiry. Marketing is a hook to draw customers to a business whilst customer service is a hook to draw people back to the company.
Some companies will conduct marketing campaigns free of charge to advertise a service to a client base if they are receiving benefits in other ways such as referral fees. When seeking examples of good practice in the subject of customer service it is important to acknowledge that there is no exact science. Good customer service can be demonstrated in a variety of situations and even in adversity a positive situation can be created. Companies must always keep customer service at the forefront of their activities because the implications of a poor customer experience can be far reaching.
About the Author
Lisa Bonet is a freelance writer specializing in the the customer management industry.