Cut Costs and Improve Customer Service

“In the old world, you devoted 30% of your time to building a great service and 70% of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts.” – Jeff Bezos

As a function, customer service is by its very nature demanding. The quote above aptly describes the paradigm shift in the thought process of the market and customers, making this function even more arduous. The changing times are making it extremely tough to survive in the market as customers are demanding ‘more for less’. It is imperative therefore for companies to not only cut costs for themselves and the customers, but simultaneously improve customer service. Daunting as it may be, it must be done. Customer service must move from being a cost centre to a profit making department while keeping customer service levels high. It must be noted that in addition to all this customers expect service via the channel of their choice – social media, mobile applications, online chats and the other traditional communication methods. Companies realize that great customer service is now the key differentiator and will prove to be the competitive edge they need.

Irrespective of industry and or company size, efforts to improve customer service seem to be catching on. The customer service representatives are now made responsible to not only provide excellent customer service aimed towards customer loyalty but also cut costs to raise profit margins. Tools like Customer Relationship Management software, customer metrics and employee feedback must be used more than before to deliver the kind of customer service that makes customers want to speak well about you to everyone they know. This is crucial to build business, sustain a market lead and consistently develop loyalty towards your company and brand.

Cut costs and improve customer service – seems counter-productive since companies must invest money and other resources to serve their customers better. While in the short term it may seem so, in the long-term the benefits that organizations reap from customer loyalty, enhanced reputation, customer testimonials and referrals, far outweigh the initial expenses. Studies reveal that most customers are greatly influenced by a company’s customer service and that the experiences and interactions they have with the customer service representatives, determines their decision to provide repeat business. The need for these tools to improve customer service has become even more heightened with the rapid increase in on-line services and the vast amount of information available to customers. They know what they want and how to get it. The surge of new companies led by tech-savvy entrepreneurs who are not risk averse and are able to adapt more swiftly to the challenges of the changing scenario is also causing some concern for the current breed of companies. Customers are always on the look-out for companies and brands that can match their pace and resolve their issues swiftly and with ease.

The meaning of high levels of customer service also changes continually and is dependent on what the customer needs and views as crucial. Customer service employees are expected to have product knowledge, great communication skills and also be ‘smooth operators’ when provide speedy and efficient resolutions and high quality information. Not all customers want to engage in self-service and still prefer connecting with a ‘person’ and so even phone calls and call centres are very much in demand as a means to get service. This does not mean that they do not leave information and gather information from social media interactions and other on-line methods. They consistently do – and companies need to be able to collate this data to use it effectively to produce better products and enhanced levels of customer service which over time will bring their costs down.

Cutting costs to grow profits for companies is also about prioritising their expenses and place as little as possible emphasis on areas that add minimum value to their business and customers. Cut costs and improve customer service do not have to be mutually exclusive and a few steps can help achieve both in a sustained manner.

– Widen the scope of customer service that is based in an office. These representatives have more efficient time on their hands than a field agent for example. Plus the more the field agents need to travel, the higher the costs are and may not justify the amount of business. It would be better to have customer service managers based in the office looking after key customer accounts as they would be able to focus on sustained levels of customer service and also ensure that the customer receives regular attention. The fact is the amount of time wasted on travelling to and fro can much rather be used effectively in actually reaching out to the customer. The kind of service being provided can also be monitored effectively such that any low performance can be dealt with immediately.

– Large customers may demand office visits – but it would be prudent of companies to ensure that these ‘visiting customer service employees’ don’t waste time in administrative tasks as these take up too much time and can prove a waste for these front-ending staff members. These routine tasks – preparing notes and quotes, data collation, data entry and other such tasks – must be handed back to the staff working at the office. All initial queries must be dealt by them too so that the more senior staff member visiting the customer is free to concentrate on acquiring new business, getting repeat business from customers and getting valuable customer referrals to. Customers are served better and more consistently and there are members of the company focused on generating higher revenue for the company.

– If companies have customers that would not mind performing routine activities on their own like account checking, placing orders, making payments, submitting enquiries, requests for quotes and other such tasks, it would be highly recommended that companies make a provision for self-service portals and functions. The introduction of self-service portals on the website and social media pages, clear and effective troubleshooting methods, effective IVR menus are some of the ways that companies can cut down on the number of customer service personnel required while improving customer service. Customers are happy since they can get the information they desire on their own time and at their own pace and also do not need to worry about someone trying to sell them a service or a product. Companies can direct their human resources into other value-added services that require human interactions and are more complex in nature. Everyone is happy – customers get what they want, when they want and companies can raise the standard of their customer service by these methods thereby attracting more business from present customers and acquiring new customers. In the marketplace, it is hard to beat a company that has a solid reputation and a customer base that is happy to be their ambassadors.

– If your company is spread over a number of countries, it is best keep customer centric roles indigenous to the country of operation. Customers get served in a ‘language’ they understand and your company does not waste precious time and money training its employees to understand the culture, language and demographics of the region. They would much rather focus on provided stellar customer service since the local staff would already know how to interact with the customers that connect with them via the call centres.

– Companies must also consistently focus on ensuring that their internal processes and operations are running smoothly. Increasing efficiency will reduce the number of potential breakdowns and service lapses. A strong hold on these efficiencies will reflect in the kind of service the customers receive and also save the company valuable resources on correcting any flaws or problems related to customers which typically take up a lot of time and money to rectify.

A successful business is one that keeps its costs down, consistently improves efficiency and continually seeks out ways that will improve customer service. Happy customers mean more profits and growing revenues – you know the cycle!

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