Service wins the game

“Even your most loyal customers always have a choice about where to take their business”. – Marilyn Suttle

Customers and companies continue to remain fascinated and intrigued by incidents that related to exceptional customer service. Truly, these are not just ‘stories’ but should serve as regular and needed reminders of how service wins the game and that there are companies who continually strive to care for and please customers. However, just saying that customers are the top most priority does not cut it – only those businesses that honestly display that service wins the game are the ones who will do anything to serve the customer and will walk the extra miles to provide a high level of service that win customers for life.

Companies are competing in a fierce market and one that changes every day with new players entering the market. Businesses cannot afford to simply redefine or change their offerings or cut prices or offer freebies in an effort to attract and retain customers. In order to differentiate their brand, they need to do all the mentioned and also have cutting edge customer service. The advantage has tilted towards the customers and is likely to remain that way for the long haul. Exceptional service wins the game now – it’s a different ball game, which successful companies have already started to ‘play’. It is a major tactical shift that not only keeps customers glued but also ensures that companies retain and enhance their reputation in the large easily forgotten business world. Service wins the game – companies are making it their weapon of choice – it is going beyond a game.

There really is no alternative since customers are no longer pleased with just a price-based distinction and for companies too it is something that can be easily matched or bettered by others. Price wars tend to be never-ending and if customers are to be truly engaged and bonded with, it cannot be over price alone. To establish bonds and relationships with customers that are enduring and resistant to efforts by competition to tear them away, it is stellar customer service that will ensure customers stay on. Of course, innovation and creativity is required in a company’s products and it would be great if companies involved customers in the process of revamping their offerings. This not only spells great customer service but also helps to offer products that have an enhanced appeal in the minds of customers. Products and offerings become more customized and better suited to the end-users making them more appealing. Customers have a lot more faith and confidence on companies that incorporate the changes suggested and feedback given by them rather than those who never solicit feedback or do zilch about the feedback received. Customers obviously are the best judge of quality and would be best suited to let companies know what they want and whether the current offerings fit the bill. To ensure that ‘service wins the game’ companies must consistently incorporate the customer’s fondness and penchants and make it a primary part of the product selection and finalization process. This truly defines top class customer service and has far reaching positive effects.

Another reason that service wins the game is the advances in technology. Internet related programs and software have automated many aspects of customer service and some companies have probably relied too much on it. They have seemingly ignored the fact that well-trained and knowledgeable customer service teams that possess great attitudes are crucial to ensure that customer service standards are met. These companies have undoubtedly forgotten that technology is and will remain only a tool to assist and can never be ‘the’ solution to stellar customer service. In fact most customers that get connected to an IVR system get easily frustrated since it either takes too long to connect, or the options are not what they need or the recording is too long and complicated. So while technology is in place, the service to customers is missing – not much of a help.

Irrespective of technology, self-service, new products and a whole sea of options most customers now continue to rate customer service as essential and tend to spend more with a company that provides exceptional customer service. What is true still is that most customers feel that they are not getting high quality customer service. The undisputed truth is that customer service separates engaged customers from ‘drifters’ and for companies it is ‘the’ means to gain and sustain competitive advantage. The flip side to this is that building and sustaining strong relationships and bonds is a time consuming, laborious and costly process and negates short-term payoffs, which seemingly is the trend. While this seems inevitable in the current cut-throat competitive scene, the truth is hard to replicate service wins the game and is a value plan that customers will not ignore. However a plain understanding of this crucial fact is not sufficient – well-planned implementation is critical and vital to success.

Would it not be great if your company’s overall strategy is such that it emphasizes service to such a degree that the company is known as a service company that also offers quality products! Offering service that has the capability of offering proactive action at the first hint of trouble or lapse would be seen as real, true and sustainable value in the minds of customers. It is way over due and companies need to wake up to the fact that they must become service companies – a paradigm shift and transition is required now if they seek to ensure that their service wins the game. The focus on executing such sustainable and differentiating service requires a firm, stubborn and steadfast determination on practicing it day in and day out.

It is not easy to run a business as is and with the new and highly exigent circumstances, it is becoming even harder and operationally draining to meet the rising customer service standards. For the kind of service that wins the game, it must be explicit, defined and detailed – with what customers want. It is about painstakingly measuring and monitoring how well you are performing against the exacting standards. Hiring, training and coaching the ‘right’ people for your business will ensure that they understand every single process, limitation and expectation in detail and execute accordingly. It would be imperative for companies to recognize such effort and reward with consistency those who perform well against the customer service standards laid down. No one said winning the hearts and minds of customers is going to get easier!

Making your brand stand out and be known as ‘different’ is about seeing all that you do through the eyes of the customer – be it feedback surveys, innovations, new product launches or simply how they wish to be addressed. The human component is indispensable in providing and ensuring that service wins the game. Engaged customers by its very meaning is about remaining constant in the interactions and having employees who are energized and excited enough to work with you to achieve this. Your service teams especially must be well-managed and well taken care of – a band of service daredevils are much tougher to defeat and compete with and will endure over time. Your competition will stagger and be unable to match up to any of this. Invigorate and reinstate customer service within your organization if required – the benefits are far-reaching and positive for a very long time.

Whether companies accept it or not, the fact is that focus has to shift from only acquiring new customers to retaining and pleasing the current ones. Price and products notwithstanding, it is and will be about competition proof relationships and ensuring that your customers always leave every interaction smiling and happy. Running a business is not a cakewalk and companies are fighting and will continue to fight intense battles of the wits and lay forward their best game in the form of outstanding customer service

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