Good customer service does not have to be an expensive undertaking. It seems that now more than ever companies are focusing more on the quality of the service their customers receive. There have been many complaints from frustrated customers over the past several years regarding automated attendants and outsourcing customer service. It is possible to provide outstanding customer service and to control associative costs.
What Constitutes Good Customer Service?
Good customer service meets customers needs, but great customer service meets and exceeds their needs—every time. Sales people are friendly and courteous at the point of sale, but when problems arise or follow-up is needed, customer services seem to fall short of meeting customer expectations. Employee training is the key to providing service that will be consistent both during and after the sale. Establishing written guidelines to be followed will ensure that customers will always have a satisfying experience when dealing with your company.
Providing customer service that is beyond customer expectations will have a definite affect on the bottom line. The key to surpassing customer expectations is to know your customers and their expectations. The purpose of good customer service is to develop customer loyalty. The resultant effect is increased business and reduced costs. For example, when IBM changed its customer service procedures from 1994 to 1999, customer satisfaction increased by more than 5 percent, their revenue increased to over $80 billion, up from $63 billion, and stock prices increased by 1,000 percent.
The Front Line Approach
A customer’s impression of a company lies in his first point of contact. Proper employee training works wonders on the type of service your customers receive. Monitoring how customers are treated by supplying return-mail or drop-box comment cards will provide a wealth of information, particularly if customers are upset about the service they’ve received. Include a section for comments on customer bills. Provide a hotline number with voice mail where anonymous comments and/or complaints can be voiced. Most importantly, follow up in a timely manner (within 1 week).
There has been much controversy regarding outsourcing, but the bottom line is that it does save money on customer service. Many large corporations, like VISA and Dell Computers, use outsourcing for their customer service and have saved billions in the process. However, the complaints are not that the people providing the service are not courteous, not even that they are less than knowledgeable. On the contrary, the problem appears to be that the responses are scripted, and the agents’ responses do not vary from those scripts.
Automated attendants are one solution to saving costs on customer service. Use of an automated attendant should be augmented with a way for customers to be able to talk to a live customer service agent as well. Because every possibility cannot be covered using automation, customers need a way to be able to explain the reason for their dissatisfaction. The inability to talk to a live person has been one of the biggest complaints from customers about using automated attendants.