Sunday, January 24, 2010

Customer Service - Your Ticket To Increase Profits In A Competitive Market

“The customer is always right”, is a cliché repeated so often that its significance tends to elude us while busy organizing and managing our businesses. Yet it is one of the most important drivers to success in a competitive market.

  • On the other hand, there is the temptation for management to become so obsessed with the cliché that employees are made to feel like non-persons. Where this has occurred, employees resentment has been abated by appropriate customer service training to empower employees with the knowledge that they are not servants whose sole purpose is to be at the beck and call of customers, but professionals trained to provide specific services, as a physician or a college professor is called upon to do.
  • The success of a customer service training program depends on hiring customer-oriented employees with the right temperament to serve all customers, and able to ask relevant questions and listen carefully to the answers in order to provide customers with what they want.
  • Customer service will include training employees to answer the telephone on the third ring with a cheerful voice and willingness to be helpful; treating customers respectfully and courteously at all times; greeting customers by name, if known; promptly answering their questions, and, if you cannot, getting back to them with an answer as quickly as possible; and knowing the benefits and features of the product you are selling.
  • While company policies and procedures are necessary to maintain quality standard, they should be flexible to allow employees to improvise in situations where customer service guidelines offer no help. For example, a customer in a clothing store may want information on a restaurant in the area. The employee should be able to provide that information without fear that she would be reprimanded for doing something outside her normal job.
  • According to Customer Service Institute, 65% of business comes from existing customers, and it costs five times as much to attract a new customer than to keep existing ones satisfied. Additionally, losing an existing customer is very expensive. Studies from the Technical Assistance Research Program Institute show that 91% of unhappy customers will never again buy from the company that displeased them, they will also tell at least 7 to 11 other people about their dissatisfaction.
  •  These statistics show customer service is an important part of doing business, so important that customer service is now included as part of the product: meaning without it the chain of production, from the procurement of raw materials, through the production processes and into the retail store, will not provide the end user with the best product at the lowest possible price. Not to mention low sales and profits for a company lacking in effective customer service.
  • Critical to customer satisfaction is understanding customers and the way they think. To keep your existing customers happy you must give them what they want, not what you think they want. Customers do business on the basis that they want what they want when they want it. They expect you to be true to your word, and to deliver on time. Customers tend to go to businesses they like and trust. Most customers stick with businesses they are familiar with, and slow to change buying habits unless dissatisfied with the service.
  • In the present competitive environment, providing average customer service is not enough. You need to do something extra that your competitors are not doing. Find ways to speed up your service by eliminating redundant processes, give out discount coupons, stay open longer hours, provide home delivery, take calls at night when your customers are home from work, and offer a free subscription to your newsletter with updated information on your products.
  • Survey your customers regularly. Ask them to fill in customer questionnaire forms. Display the questionnaire forms where they are easily reached, and thank the customer for taking the time to fill it. Follow up on the comments, analyze them, draw a chart, correct and improve where needed to meet or exceed your customers expectation.
During our busy working day, we sometimes forget that our businesses continue to exist because of customers. We tend to see them as faceless and nameless entities that buy our products: numbers that bring us income. Times have changed. Today’s customers are more sophisticated, and they want a say in the way a business is run, because they see business as being there to service their needs, and they want those needs met with quality service and promptly.

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