Go Beyond Customer Service: Try Servicing the Customer
Much has been written about customer service, but to gain an increased understanding of customer service, let’s put it the other way around. Instead of saying customer service, let’s say servicing the customer. The importance of customer service, then, becomes the quality of service given to the customer.
So, what quality of customer service is appropriate to give? Should it be the economically irreducible minimum your company can afford? Should it be giving service to the point where the customer’s expectations are exceeded in their own estimation? Or is it somewhere in between?
3 principles to be your guide
1. The customer always thinks they’re right.
No customer has ever considered that they are wrong. Even if they say they are, deep down, they still consider themselves right. In Asia, a guiding motto is that “the customer is king.”
2. The customer thinks they are the top priority.
No customer ever said, “I am second priority.” No customer ever jumped on a plane when it was announced, “The pilot for this flight is our second (or third or fourth) best pilot, but he is still very good.” And any passengers already on the plane would be fighting to get off the moment they heard that announcement.
3. The customer holds the whip.
The customer has the final weapon. At any time during the sale or negotiation, they can say that dreaded word: NO.
Therefore, the main criteria is that the service given to a customer does the following:
- Treats the customer as if they are right
- Makes it plain that that individual customer is your top priority
- Makes it hard or impossible to say no
How to incorporate these principles in service
According to some people, the importance of customer service may vary by product or service, industry and customer. However I beg to differ as this, to me, implies that a situation where less than the very best customer service may be justified. It also would violate the three principles above.
Customer service, or servicing the customer, can be broken down into five steps or actions:
- Get in communication with a customer or client.
- Find out what the customer wants or needs by listening to them and asking questions.
- Find a way for that need to be serviced.
- Get the customer to see that this is a solution to their need.
- Present this solution to the customer in such a way that they see it benefits them and they want it.
Service after you make the sale
Servicing the customer does not stop with the first sale or solution you offer to the customer. Servicing is an ongoing activity. It does not mean demanding the customer fill out a feedback form. It is nice if a customer does fill out such a form; it can help your business gauge the quality of service it offers and point to where it can improve. But a feedback form is for the company, not for the customer, and is not part of servicing the customer.
Follow-up calls come under the category of continuing customer service. Asking the customer if they were satisfied and if there is any further service or product you can offer comes under the banner of servicing the customer.
Speed of service also comes under the banner of customer service. How fast can you provide the service or product? How quick is your company’s response to queries, questions and complaints?
How easy is it to communicate with your company without spending hours waiting on the phone or seeking a contact webpage? And when a customer finally contacts a person in your company, how helpful are they? Do they not just listen but also hear what the customer is saying? Does their response reflect that to the customer’s satisfaction?
Many companies treat after-sales service as a necessary pain. This is reflected in some call centers by performance indicators not reflecting how satisfied the customer is, but rather how short the call can be so each phone operator can take more calls, resulting in less staff needed. Calls that take longer than five minutes are often discouraged, and operators may be reprimanded if their calls take longer. The result is that the operator is more interested in meeting their performance targets than in giving quality service to the customer. And make no mistake: No matter how polite an operator is, a customer can tell when they are being rushed or when the operator wants to wind up the call even slightly.
These reflect a lesser quality of servicing the customer. This comes under the irreducible minimum service in that it will retain the customer at an effective economical cost to the company. It also violates the second principle above. A company striving to exceed the customer expectations of service will achieve far more and be much more successful than one focused on reducing costs and treating service as a necessary evil.
Remembering and using the three principles above will go a long way in increasing your customer base and the success of your company.