Constantly Improving Customer Service

“What we’re talking about is improving customer service. Virtually any company can benefit from it”. – John Tschol

Since customers and their expectations and needs are constantly changing and evolving, it would make sense for a company to work constantly at improving customer service it provides. In fact, consistently enhancing this crucial area must be a prime focus for every company. Customers are the reason for the existence and success of a business, and hence it flows naturally that they should be top priority. Without customers, there would be no companies, brands, or businesses, making it essential for every company to make improving customer service a key focus area. Since service is provided to customers through employees, a company must pay close attention to the skills, knowledge, experience, and attitudes of its employees, and ensure that it takes good care of them. Providing employees with good salaries and benefits, regular opportunities for growth, training, and development, ensuring they have the most updated tools to do their jobs well, and giving them the leeway to use their knowledge to help customers, are all aspects that would ensure improvement in customer service standards.

No company can deny the importance of improving customer service – in fact, every business imperative requires constant attention and enhancement. The truth is that with so many fierce competitors, no company can afford to rely on ‘tried and tested’ means, or be complacent based on past laurels. Each ‘player’ in the market today is looking to upstage the others, and without constant innovation and strategies of improving customer service, failure would be almost certain. We know that with so many similar products and services on offer today, the most prominent manner to differentiate a company would be through its customer service – and research shows that service excellence is one of the top demands of customers and companies must comply.

Improving customer service, make no mistake, is not about improving or enhancing your customer service teams or other customer facing personnel. Rather, to gain sustainable improvement and enhancement in service levels, a company must ensure that every employee (the top most rung included), understands her or his responsibility towards providing top class service, and the role they play in constantly enhancing the kind of service customers receive. One of the most important factors of improving customer service would be to provide opportunities for training and coaching to all employees. These training programs must focus on how customers must be treated, the most effective methods to resolve their problems and to help them achieve success in their business. With a sustained focus on improving customer service, a company would soon see positive and profitable results. Customers are happier and more likely to support a company that treats them well. Over time, customers ‘stick’ with a company, making them loyal and more likely to advocate the brand and company.

We know that for a company to achieve long-term success, it would need to use its resources intelligently and ensure that its customers are happy. Happy customers ensure repeat business, and draw positive attention from a much wider market through positive word of mouth by way of testimonials and referrals. The fact is that only through constant improvements can a company stay abreast with the changing needs and expectations of customers. Strategies that may have worked previously may not work as time progresses given that customers do not remain the same and as they move ahead and change, so do their reasons to buy, and expectations from a company. Without making concerted efforts towards improving customer service, a company would never be able to give customers what they want, and therefore, would never be able to retain customers long enough to make them loyal brand ambassadors. In today’s competitive environment, not having loyal customers willing to advocate the brand can prove to be disastrous, and a company could easily get relegated to oblivion. Customer service and relationships must never be left to chance and every company must strive to ensure that its customers feel special and important at all times.

Since service is all about customers and how they feel about a company, the best way to improving customer service would be to check with customers. Every interaction with a customer must end with a speedy discussion to understand how they felt about the interaction, and whether they believe the company needs to improve its service levels. With time, customers begin to be more open and candid, providing valuable feedback that a company can use to improve its service. It is important for a company to take cognizance of the suggestions, implement them where possible, show real improvement, and let customers know what the company did with their suggestions. This is an extremely important part of improving customer service – if a company does not let customers know that it has heard the suggestions and used them where possible, customers would feel ignored. Over time, customers would refrain from providing suggestions, which would mean that a company could not make improvements based on what customers actually want and need. This becomes a vicious cycle, with customers leaving a company for one that would actually listen.

As mentioned, service to customers happens through employees. They are the ones who interact directly with customers several times daily. Given this close proximity to customers, front-end employees prove to be a powerhouse of information that can be used for improving customer service significantly. By asking employees for their feedback and inputs, a company not only gains invaluable information on customers, but also makes its employees feel valued and important. Imparting customer ‘knowledge’ makes employees feel that a company appreciates their role and the effort they put into doing their job, which makes employees want to improve and work better. It is a winning situation for any company – it improves service to customers, making them happy and boosts the morale of its employees, thereby encouraging even better performance and output from them.

Ensure that everyone in the company has the same understanding of what customer service is supposed to be and know what customers expect. One of the main reasons for the breakdown in service towards customers is the fact that teams and individuals hold on to their own notions of service based on experience and knowledge, which in turn means that service is not customized to ‘fit’ the customer base of the company. While everyone must be focused on service excellence, the ‘definition’ of service excellence must be standard across the company, and aligned to the specific needs and demands of the company’s customers. Everyone in the company must ‘live by’ the dictum that customers are priority and that everything the company does must be focused on making the lives of customers easier and their business successful. This ‘law’ must be non-negotiable, and in fact must be ‘enforced’ by including it in the common performance indicators for every job role across the company.

Building a strategy for service and improving customer service are not easy tasks and there is no shortcut or quick fix to them. A company must have laser like focus on keeping its customers happy, meaning that improving customer service would become a relentless and never-ending quest, which would definitely lead to rewards and success for any company.

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