Servicing the Customer

Much has been written about customer service but to gain an increased understanding of customer service let’s put it the other way around.
Instead of saying customer service, let’s say servicing the customer.

The importance of servicing the customer becomes then, the quality of service given to the customer.

Service is defined as ‘the action of helping, assisting or doing something for someone.’ In this case a customer. A customer is one who buys or exchanges goods or may potentially buy or exchange services from you.

The question then becomes, what quality of customer service is appropriate to give?

Should it be the economically irreducible minimal the company can afford? Or should it be giving service to the point where the customer’s expectations are exceeded in their own estimation? Or is it somewhere in-between?

As a guide to servicing the customer, there are three principles that can help here.

Principle 1
The customer always considers they are right.

No customer has ever considered they are wrong. Even if they say they are, deep down they still consider they are right. In Asia a guiding principle is that the customer is King.

Principle 2
The customer always considers they are top or first priority.

No customer ever said, “I am second priority.” No customer ever jumped on a plane where it was announced “the pilot for this flight is our second (third, fourth) best pilot, but he is very good considering.” And any passengers on such a plane, on hearing that announcement prior to take off, would be fighting to get off the moment that announcement was heard.

Principle 3

The customer holds the whip hand.

The customer has the final ‘weapon of mass destruction.’ He or she can always, at any time during the sale or negotiation, say that dreaded word. NO.

The only criteria that can satisfy all three principles are the qualities of service given to a customer or client that:

  • Treats the customer as if he were right.
  • Makes it plain that he or she is your top or first priority and
    Makes it hard, if not impossible to say no.

Wikipedia explains Customer service as being the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase. According to Turban et al. “Customer service is a series of activities designed to enhance the level of customer satisfaction – that is, the feeling that a product or service has met the customer expectation.”

According to some people, the importance of customer service may vary by product or service, industry and customer. However I beg to differ as this, to me, implies that a situation where less than the very best customer service may be justified. It also would violate the three principles above.

Customer service or servicing the customer can be broken down into five steps or actions.

  1. Getting in communication with a customer or client.
  2. Finding out what the customer wants and/or needs by listening to the customer and asking questions.
  3. Finding a way in which that want or need can be serviced or filled.
  4. Getting the customer to see that this is the solution to his or her want or need.
  5. Presenting this solution to the customer in such a way that they see this is the best solution that benefits them and they want it.

Investopedia explains ‘Customer Service’ as ‘an extremely important part of maintaining ongoing client relationships that are the key to continuing revenue.’ This means that servicing the customer does not stop with the first sale or solution offered to the customer. Servicing is an ongoing activity. It does not mean also demanding the customer filled out a feedback form. It is nice if a customer does fill out such a form. It can help the company or business gauge the quality of service being offered and point the company in the direction of improving their service level. But a feedback form is for the benefit of the company, not for the customer and is NOT part of servicing the customer. likewise testimonials. success stories etc.

Follow up calls come under the category of continuing customer service. Asking the customer if they were satisfied and if there is any further service or product that can be offered comes under the banner of servicing the customer.

Speed of service also comes under the banner of customer service. How fast can one provide the service or product? How quick is the companies response to queries, questions and complaints?

How easy is it to communicate with the company without spending hours waiting on the phone or seeking a contact web page?

And when a customer finally contacts a person in the company, how helpful are they? Do they not just listen but also hear what the customer is saying? And does their response reflect that to the customer’s satisfaction.

Many companies treat after sales service as a necessary pain. This is reflected in some call centres who have performance indicators that do not reflecting how satisfied the customer is but rather how short the call can be made so more calls can be taken by each phone operator resulting in less staff needed. Customers can be discouraged by long waits and big queues. In one call center for example, calls of five minutes or over are discouraged and operators can be severely upbraided if their calls take longer as a rule. The result being that the operator is more interested in meeting his performance targets than in giving quality service to the customer. And make no mistake, no matter how polite an operator can be, a customer can tell when they are being rushed or when the operator wants to ‘wind up the call’ even slightly.

These reflect a lesser quality of servicing the customer. This comes under the irreducible minimum service offered in that will retain the customer at an effective economical cost to the company. It also violates principle two above.

A company striving to exceed the customer expectations with service will achieve far more and be much more successful than one focused on reducing costs and treating service as a necessary evil.

Remembering and using the three principles above will go a long way to increasing the customer base and the success of the company or business.