Forging Ahead in Customer Service through Innovation

Henry Ford said: “A business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits. They will be embarrassingly large.”

[img src=”” width=”300″ height=”” align=”right”] We all want to be in this ‘embarrassing’ position, don’t we? And with the onset of new and improved technology, a new smoother path has been paved to interact with the ever increasing customer numbers. This in turn has opened avenues of how best to innovatively draw these customers towards our services and products. The challenges that most companies face are that customers are wiser, better informed and are expecting higher levels of service to draw them to or make them remain with a company’s services. So what should a service / product provider do? Innovate – by offering great deals and pricing, value-added services and most importantly superlative customer support. Innovating thus, leads not just to an increased customer base but also customer loyalty thereby spelling an increase in revenue and profits. A subtle yet important benefit is a drop in employee attrition too – company does well, employees stay. Simple!

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The information on the internet and access to the vast expanse of content has also made it possible to innovate and find newer ways to ‘meet’ and interact with people. The paradox however lies in that selling the concept of one’s brand or services, is far simpler and yet an uphill task! How so, you may ask? Companies offering similar services or products are vying for the attention of the same customers that your company is targeting. The customer has a plethora of choices and unless you tower over competition, it may be a Herculean task to attract and retain the customer base. Taking a cue from this scramble to top spot, people are demanding more freedom and control over what they can choose from, being able to compare the choices and then make an informed decision. This new found freedom and confidence in service / product seekers, is changing the traditional ways of deciding and choosing.

When the traditional methods of choosing have changed, how can creating brand perception survive using traditional marketing methods? Since it is impossible for you to predict what the customer really wants or needs, Innovation is the name of the game now – new brands, eye-ball grabbing branding, customized selling techniques – all go a long way in altering customer perception and in your favor. Innovation needs to permeate all levels of customer service – starting from the basic fact that this ‘highway’ cannot be the playground for just one department or a set of people within the organization. It must be a shared initiative and driving force behind every team, function, business unit and all levels in the company’s hierarchy. Companies, that have a culture of an all-pervading common idea, are the ones most likely to succeed and the idea of innovating is no different. High-performing companies with the ‘embarrassingly large profits” dig deep and delve in to all aspects – technology, employee passion, customer feedback, marketing techniques, branding, customer support – drawing insights and rigorously following trends to uproot any limiting factors thereby plugging all holes that would drain away their customer base. Innovate. Innovate. Innovate.

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Once you follow religiously the “pattern of innovation” you will realize that each step does not need to be giant stride rather regular small steps that gradually increase with time. This approach ensures that innovation becomes a habit rather than a one-time knee jerk reaction when things spin out of control. As you begin to eat, breathe and sleep innovation, you become more intrepid and are encouraged to take bigger leaps towards making your company the place that customers come to and stick with. It’s always best to win a battle than going to war!

This all sounds very interesting and worth considering, but what do you actually go about doing? How about we give you some tips or pointers to give you a head-start?

  • Treat a customer as a person – well because he or she is one. Avoid the detrimental error of typifying them as objects as that would mean ignoring feelings, demeanor, lives and priorities that they have. Your service will be personalized, intuitive and forthcoming when you take the time to understand customers as persons. When you view customers as something out there trying to get you, your reactions would be defensive and devious, which sooner or later the customer will pick up. Customers are able to differentiate between such service providers and the ones that have dedicated their business to serve the customers with loyalty and a personal touch. Empathizing with your customers and building a culture of experiencing in the imagination their feelings or actions is a sure way of growing customer loyalty. This personification needs to be embedded in every step of the customer focused processes and every person within the company must guide their actions by this. A positive customer experience leads to a happy customer that is highly important to the intended objective of profitability.
  • Focus on customer feedback since this feedback will eventually affect the company’s bottom line. Only when the customer feels he is successful through his interactions with you, will he continue to do business and that will make you successful. A customer is providing feedback for a reason – listening to it is what will make most sense to your business needs. When you start to focus immediately on these pain points not only will you be able to put an end to them, you will transition to having a concrete way to measure your success.
  • Refer to your customers by name – this provides a personal touch and a sense of elation instantly paving the way for an attentive customer interested in learning about you. The customer feels important and understands that you are striving to make time for him / her and genuinely want to provide a great customer service experience. Such customers are sure to spread a good word about you leading to more potential business. Be courteous, serve with a smile – it costs nothing. Not doing so could cost you and your company severe damages and loss of reputation. “There’s only one boss,” Sam Walton once said, “the customer. He can fire everybody from the chairman on down simply by spending his money elsewhere.”
  • Don’t depend on brand loyalty since customers now have an inexhaustible access to information, various brands, products, services which leaves them with myriad options and hence the concept of brand loyalty is soon becoming a thing of the past. This does not need to spell doom for a company but rather to think laterally and find new ways to connect with the customers to ensure they stay with you.
  • Use the new improved channels of communication to your advantage. Integrating all the different modes of communication – be it the internet, email or social media – will help you pick up signals and cues of customer expectations which will give you that extra edge when actually dealing with the customer. The growing customer demands should not find you scurrying to find solutions and leveraging the information on these channels will allow you to empower your staff to provide innovative solutions and real-time value to your customers. However, before automating your services, remember that most customers would rather talk to a live person. Walking on this tight-rope and effectively balancing the company’s needs with that of the customer’s, is the only way to deliver outstanding customer service that will be talked about positively.
  • Anticipate customer needs, show actual concern, put your concern in to action – this is self-explanatory. What differentiates good customer service from a great one, is when the company can foresee what the customer would want or need. Despite this, if things do go haywire, it is prudent to apologize and immediately go on to providing / suggesting a solution. Words without action are meaningless. Providing an ecstatic customer experience should be everyone’s job and not restricted to a few.
  • This line-up of seeming trials, seem like a daunting task, however you look at them. However, finding the balance between the company’s objectives and customer needs is the key to innovating for successful business and exponential growth. Companies need to shift the focus from internal to the extraneous conditions of new business inclinations, improved technology, deeper customer understanding of available products and services and align these to improve working style and raising the level of customer service to a new high. Happy customers are also willing customers, who will spare no occasion to endorse you and recommend you to others. Innovation in all realms of the company will be the paradigm shift needed to secure a successful place for your company in the near future.

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