Archive for September, 2011
October is Customer Service Month – Elizabeth Kraus
Excerpt, “October is Customer Service Month” from 365 Days of Marketing
365 Days of Marketing is available on amazon.com in book and digital formats.
According to a 2011 American Express Global Customer Service Barometer (a survey done in the USA and 9 other countries relative to attitudes and preferences toward customer service), 70% of Americans said they would be willing to spend almost 15% more with businesses they believed (really) provided excellent customer service. With such an indicator, you would think that businesses would make customer service a top priority; but in the same survey, 60% of respondents said they don’t believe businesses are making customer service a high priority. In fact, 26% said they think businesses are actually paying less attention to service.
When was the last time you asked customers how their experience with your business stacks up against their expectations? When was the last time you asked what they expected, or what constitutes exceptional service to them? When was the last time you received a complaint, a compliment—or any feedback at all related to customer service?
Maybe many business owners simply don’t understand what customer service ‘is,’ or maybe they misinterpret or fail to deliver what it is their customers really want.
When you say the words “customer service,” what comes to mind? A telephone service agent, headset in place, waiting to take your call or working on a long queue of calls; or maybe it’s the smocked sales associate standing behind the counter at the far end of the building, just under a specially titled “Customer Service/Returns” sign. If any of these images constitutes what customer service is to you, or is representative of the people responsible to provide it, your definition needs some work.
According to Wikipedia.org, “Customer Service is the provision of services to customers before, during and after a purchase,” so far, so good, there’s not much there to change the basic understanding held by most people. But the description goes on to reference Efraim Turban’s 2002 book, “Electronic Commerce: A Managerial Perspective” where he says that customer service is “a series of activities designed to enhance the level of customer satisfaction—that is, the feeling that a product or service has met the customer expectation.”
Whoa—that’s a whole different take! According to this line of thinking, the definition of customer service is not contained in the actions of a person taking a phone order, fulfilling a web order, receiving a return or complaint, performing a service or selling a product. Customer service isn’t an action, it’s a process—an intentionally designed system—meant to enhance the customer’s experience and which influences whether a customer feels satisfied or dissatisfied by a product or service.
A sales transaction, product or service on its own is not enough to produce customer satisfaction. You must systematically examine and strategically improve each and every aspect of the customer experience, at every possible touch point. You must create a system designed to enhance the customer experience. Do you know what that really means?
According to thefreedictionary.com, en-hance (verb) means:
1) to make greater, as in value, beauty, or effectiveness; to augment
2) to provide with improved, advanced or sophisticated features
It’s not just about making the customer experience “better.” It’s about making it greater in value, bigger (augmented) and/or more sophisticated – more than that of the competition and more than the customer expects – so that it stands out to the customer as inherently and uniquely extra-ordinary. To do that, you must thoroughly know and understand your customers and you must train, educate and empower employees to respond to requests, complaints, unique situations and individual customer’s needs and desires.
If you wonder why people don’t always agree with the claim you make that your business provides “exceptional customer service” or why the customer experience at your business is not helping you gain and retain clients, it’s because what you have in place is not actually enough to influence the customer to feel exceptionally satisfied.
The level of service and attention you provide to customers may be acceptable; but if it’s not more than expected, and doesn’t set you apart from the competition, it’s not good enough!
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It’s going to be a great year!