Good Customer Service Management

“Customer service is just a day in, day out on-going, never ending, unremitting, persevering, compassionate, type of activity.” – Leon Gorman

We know that customer service as a job is extremely stressful and mostly onerous. It requires highly evolved skills of a varied nature in order to handle the pressure involved. The new ‘breed’ of customers no longer accepts shoddy or ‘half-baked’ service which makes customer service management an even more critical task. The customer service staff can no longer be people who are only equipped to respond to queries. Customer service management is the whole gamut of this realm ranging from customer queries, issues, problems, complaints, analysis of data, troubleshooting ability of technical problems, product knowledge, communication skills – the list is seemingly endless.

Customer service management ideally should begin at the hiring stage. Not only must the prospective customer service employee have experience with customer interaction and management but must be skilled in quick and effective problem resolution, analysing customer data and behaviour, troubleshooting experience, strong communication and interpersonal skills and be able to handle pressure, among other skills. These prospective employees must be clearly explained about the kind of customer base, the work environment that would comprise of the culture, co-workers, technology and other such aspects, they should be told about the possible growth prospects and also what they can expect in terms of support, benefits and compensation. While each position within a company would have its own challenges, customer service management is a critical dimension because of the direct customer interface, wherein one wrong comment, action or behaviour can alienate a customer for good and could also take with them several other customers citing their experience.

Customer service management is a very widespread realm and begins with the most basic of skills – communication. This would seem like a given and hence often taken for granted and hence ignored. Communication skills comprise not just being able to articulate one’s thoughts and knowledge but also enable one to listen actively and effectively. Since communication is often non-verbal too, customer service management employees must be able to clearly interpret these non-verbal cues in order to reduce ambiguity and the resultant misunderstandings. It is a known fact, that even if the customer service person is unable to resolve a customer’s query instantly, the customer is more amenable to listen to their side if the customer is satisfied that they were completely ‘listened’ to first. Strong communication skills is not about just being able to speak a particular language well but also ensuring that the tone, expressions and words used convey empathy, care and understanding for the customer in every interaction – not just when customers are miffed and are complaining.

Irrespective of the level within the customer service team in which an employee is placed, customer service management is about being able to convince, negotiate and persevere while dealing with customers and co-workers. The customer service person must have the ability to lead and motivate themselves and those they work with in order to keep stress at bay and thus be able to achieve the company’s, teams and one’s own personal goals faster and more efficiently. Customer service management is about being able to collaborate with customers and co-workers such that conflicts and potentially detrimental situations are kept to the minimum. They must be able to weigh their words and actions and seek the best possible solution depending upon the situation.

Customer service management, like any other aspect of business, cannot exist in a silo. In every realm of life there will be opportunity to interact with and work with other people. In the case of customer service, it involves dealing with possibly the toughest set of people – customers. Social and interactive skills take on a great deal of importance in this particular realm. These skills allow a person to recognize and appreciate the strengths, shortcomings, emotions and mind-set of others making them more adept at avoiding conflicts and also building and sustaining strong relationships with customers and those they work with. This also ensures that each person within the organization is focused on working cohesively which in turn translates to great customer service and organizational efficiency. This bodes well for any company especially those that have operations across the globe – a proper understanding of the employees and customers of other countries only makes the company known as one that is committed and passionate about being a great employer and an outstanding customer service provider.

Customer service management is also about reducing customer effort and making it simpler and more enjoyable for customers to do business with the company. Any company understands how tough and costly it is to attract new customers and then apply effort to reach them to a stage of loyalty. Companies would rather focus on keeping their current customers happy – a survey corroborates this fact – at least 83% of customers surveyed said they would do more business with a company that has customer friendly policies thereby reducing the amount of effort they need to apply to continue the business relationship.

However, despite a company’s best efforts to keep pace, the reality is that customers are not easily impressed any more. Their requirements, expectations and demands are changing very rapidly and the surge in the popularity of multi-channels for communication and technological advancements are not making things any easier for companies. Customer service management therefore should also encompass being able to build and sustain relationships and rapport with customers. The higher the level of satisfaction of the customer, the more positive comments they tend to spread amongst their own circle and also on highly visible platforms of social media. Customer service management must aim at making the company be known as customer friendly. As customers remain happy, they will provide more business ensuring that the company remains successful. A profitable company is much better equipped to take care of its employees and happy employees will ensure that they do what they can for the company. It is circle of efficiency, satisfaction and effort.

With new technology and multi-channels, customers also expect to be served by any channel they choose. Customer service management therefore is about being able to provide customer service and support consistently through every available channel. It is about integrating all the channels such that the message the customers receive is uniform and consistent, thereby presenting a ‘united face’ of the company. Customers are no longer happy with receiving great service at the first point of interaction – each time and every interaction must uphold the same high standards they receive at the first interaction. Inconsistent experiences will lead to customer dissatisfaction and ire and ultimately loss of the customer base.

As mentioned, customer service management is not just one department and in fact for it to be successful it must start at the very top. The highest level leadership must be able to display customer focus and commitment. This would start with first being understanding and empathetic for the company’s first customers – the employees and then flow on to the company’s life-blood – the external customers. The way the top person of a company treats the customers and employees will be emulated by everyone else in the company. The best and superior levels of customer service must be something that the top person and the leadership team live by. No amount of updated technology and great products can outdo top class customer service and hence customer service management must become the priority for each and every person within the company.

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