Good Customer Service: How to Get There

“In order to compete in a truly customer-driven manner, an enterprise must integrate its entire range of business functions around satisfying the individual needs of individual customers – not just marketing, customer service and sales, but production logistics, and financial measurement and metrics.” Enterprise One to One by Don Peters and Martha Rodgers

Customers are the lifeblood of any unit or organization.  Regardless if you work for an internal or external function, you still have customers who are the basis of your existence.  It is easy to become consumed with our expectations, processes, or operations and forget that we exist to serve.   If you are a human resource professional, you have multiple customers that can even find themselves on opposite sides of the same issues.  If you are a manager, you have to deal with multiple customer needs, expectations, and resources to make sure you meet as many of your customer’s needs as often and efficiently as possible.

We live in an age of immediate response due to the web and social media.  Before the Internet, a dissatisfied customer would tell approximately 16 people about their bad experience.  Today, an unhappy customer can literally reach tens of thousands or more.  With more than 800 million people actively using Facebook, and each with an average of 130 friends, it does not take long for the word to spread.  YouTube.com includes numerous examples of poor service captured by cell phone video cameras as well as well written and filmed concerns of past customers of major corporations.  In other words, the Internet makes it nearly impossible to hide bad service from others that might use your product or service.

What does this cost your organization? It costs revenues.  Most customers once dissatisfied rarely come back and along the way spread the word that you are not someone to do business with in the future.

To ensure that you are doing the most for your customers, you have to understand their wants and needs.  There are three key things that you should know about your customers:

  • What do they want?
  • How are you doing at providing what they want?
  • How can you improve the customer experience?

You need to understand who your customers are and what they really want.  Before the 1980’s it was common to assume that most customers wanted the same thing.  Media and cultural norms established a basic prototype of expectations that most people sought.  Today, we live in an age of supreme diversification.  Each of us can have it our own ways and it is right to make sure that is what is being offered.  Consequently, the first step in knowing your customer is determining what each customer segment really wants.

How well you are providing for your customers is the next question to pose to those that you serve.  What customers want is the customer experience.  The customer experience includes more than just the outcome.  I may be very happy with the quality of the food at my favorite restaurant, but if it takes two hours and cost $200 dollars, my experience was probably not a favorable one.  The customer experience pertains to how well you match your offering to my needs, process for delivery (accessibility, friendliness, quality, affordability, timeliness), and overall result.

Finally, customers want to be asked how satisfied they are and have their suggestions taken seriously.  Most customers want this process to be quick and unobtrusive, but they still want to the chance to weigh in on their experience.

Once we have this information, the difference between knowing and excelling is how the information is utilized.

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