By M. Dana Baldwin, Senior Consultant
How often have you gone into a store or a restaurant, called a service department on the phone, emailed a customer service unit of a company, and had anything but outstanding customer service results? All too often, customer service contacts don’t address your problem directly, or don’t serve you well, or worse, serve you indifferently. You can go through layers upon layers of automated phone attendants, only to have to start over when one of the buttons you pushed ends up putting you on a wrong track.
There is such a big difference between getting good service and getting poor service. Getting good service, however, is usually not that much more directly expensive to the organization which is providing the service, when one considers the long term overall cost, including additional time needed to resolve problems, multiple customer contacts due to unresolved problems and, probably the most important impact on your business, the potential of lost opportunities for continuing business with that dissatisfied customer.
What can be done about correcting the problem of not having good customer service? While no one remedy will apply to every company, there are some basic principles which could apply to many situations.
First: Good customer service must start at the very top of the organization. The company leadership sets the strategies, goals and culture of the organization. If the importance of good customer service is not recognized and supported openly by top management, it is unlikely that anyone at lower levels will have both the inclination and the decision-making ability to make the changes which are needed to raise the standards to appropriate levels.
Second: Once top management has bought in, good communication about the strategies and goals of good customer service must be developed and effectively communicated throughout the organization. People will do much better when they know what is expected of them in sufficient detail and clarity that their purpose is understood and well-defined.
Third: Constant follow up on the progress toward good customer service is needed to raise performance and adherence to the goals and standards set by top management. A part of this can be regular testing of the actual customer experience when they are contacting customer service.
One example: We often shop at our nearest Meijer store. While we know the store pretty well, there are occasionally times when we don’t know where to look for a specific item. To date, over many years, we have always been able to ask someone in the store where the item is located, and had them not only tell us, but walk us over to the aisle and point out where the item is on the shelf. On occasion, we have gone to other Meijer stores, and we have found the exact same dedication to customer satisfaction and results at the other stores as at our local store. There is a culture in Meijer that consistently reinforces the importance of good service that comes from the very top, and we have never had one instance of having anyone we asked not responding positively and getting us to the result we were seeking.
If you need help in improving your customer service as a part of your ongoing strategic planning processes, we can help. Please contact me at 616-575-3193 or email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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M. Dana Baldwin is a Senior Consultant with Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. He can be reached by email at: email@example.com
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