“The starting point of developing an excellent customer service policy is to define how you intend to treat your customers. Start by defining the “ultimate customer service experience”. – Mark Thompson / Brian Tracy (the book – Now Build a Good Business)
When a company is ‘starting off’, it would be small and would have few employees and a small customer base, making it easy for the company to keep a hold on the needs and expectations of the customers. However, as the company grows, the number of employees and customers grow too, with more channels for interaction but also more room for error leading to a drop in customer service. The growth of a company is necessary but in order to ensure that service remains consistence, there must be a clearly defined customer service policy and adherence to it should be mandatory for all in the organization. Since customers are the life-blood of any company, most have now understood the importance of a customer service policy to ensure that customers remain happy and loyal to the company. It is oft repeated that – gaining a new customer is a lot harder and costlier than retaining an existing one.
Most companies today provide a wide range of products and services and employ a sizeable number of employees. A customer service policy ensures that each person within the organization understands the importance of serving the customers consistently with the same high quality of service – irrespective of which department the employee may work in or at what rank. Such a policy ensures that the employees know that they must put the needs of the customers before their own and that providing empathetic, caring and responsive service is everyone’s responsibility. A well-expressed and written down customer service policy is like a set of rules and a path, which when followed will lead to empowerment of the employees as well as ensuring that customers are satisfied with the services of the company most of the time. In the event that they do have reason for dissatisfaction, the empowered employees can make spot decisions to smoothen out the problems – a customer service policy therefore must be lucid and simple.
Every customer expects and demands to understand what they can expect from the company in terms of service. A company must ensure that its customer service policy is easily available to the customers as well such that they can see that your company’s commitment to high quality service is actually in practice. The customer service policy lets customers know what they can expect from the company and how both parties can work together to ensure success for all. This policy provides the basis for an on-going and sustainable relationship since both the customers and the company would have a common goal and vision. Despite the obvious differences between customers, a customer service policy would ensure that every customer be treated with respect and would receive the same high quality of service and effort. No one within the company would be exempt from adhering to the policy, thereby ensuring that irrespective of whom the customer connects with, they will receive the best possible service.
The fact is that customers spend their money and time and it is not much to expect that they be treated with respect and made to feel valued. Feeling important and valued leads to customer retention, which translate to loyalty and sustained profitability. When a company is able to do good business, their reputation soars leading to high satisfaction and retention rates among employees. This leads to internal stability, raising the levels of service and product quality, which in turn attracts more investors and other stakeholders, willing to collaborate with the company. The customer service policy in effect determines the association with these vital ‘business partners’, insuring the success of a business. Does your company have a customer service policy and if yes, then what does it incorporate?
A successful customer service policy is a support system that provides employees unambiguous instructions for ensuring customer service excellence. It clearly states how such service would put and keep the company ahead of any competitor by giving customers more than they expect, proactively determining their needs and ensuring that they have minimal problems. Such a policy also serves as a measure and yardstick of which service behaviours ought to be recognized and rewarded, thereby boosting the morale of employees to serve the customers even better. A customer service policy serves to let your employees know how service excellence leads to success and a bright future for them within the company, thereby encouraging them to perform consistently at their optimum. A defined and visible customer service policy will ensure that the company will make every effort to live up to and exceed the commitment of service such that customers can actually experience a positive difference as compared to another company.
A customer service policy is a reflection of the company’s understanding of what customers want – attention, trustworthiness, best in class, promptness, responsiveness and other such traits. It is statement of commitment that tells customers that the company would do everything possible to ensure their happiness. It is also a measure of the success (or failure) of the customer service teams – they would know exactly what is expected of them making it easier for them to deliver. It is not possible to put something into action, if one is not aware of the expectations. A customer service policy sets the guidelines and training of service for the customer service staff in particular and also across the organization. With the clarity that such a written down policy brings, employees are better positioned to perform their assigned tasks without ambiguity. Each person would know the company’s expectations with regard to customer service and hence they would be able to perform better. Employees are not stressed out trying to achieve some undetermined goals leading to reduced turnover and enhanced employee satisfaction. The company would have a set of employees that would help it reach its goals within a framework that allows them to feel empowered.
Most companies also include guidelines for the employees on how they should get information and solicit feedback from customers on an informal level. Such random ‘checks’ would ensure that the company is able to detect problems that could potentially annoy a customer and or disrupt the functioning of the company. Customers are happy to speak their mind especially if they know that their feedback will be taken seriously and swift and effective amends made. Of course, formal customer surveys are required but given that, they cannot be too frequent, gaining information from customers ad hoc ensures swifter resolution of issues.
The basis of a customer service policy is to ensure enhanced service to customers and to provide guidelines for the employees on how. Before putting such a policy in place, it would be prudent to seek the advice and feedback of the employees that interact with customers directly – they are the ones that would have the most accurate information of what customers seek and where the company lacks. In addition, it is these frontline staff who will put the guidelines into practice and hence involving them in the formation of the customer service policy would be a smart move.
Any policy is a strategic connection between the company’s goals, its employees and its daily operations. A customer service policy serves the same purpose only that it would be focused on the customers and their needs. With a clear policy in place, employees would know their responsibilities and domain with certain limits and would be able to function better without the need for constant supervision. It is not hard to see why every company, irrespective of size must have a properly documented and robust customer service policy in place.