Customer Service Advice
Written by Andrew Goldman for Gaebler Ventures
Without customers you do not have a company. Without repeat customers, you do not have a sustainable company. As a result, customer service and delivering what the customer wants is key to the success of any small business.
Whether you're in the service industry or the manufacturing industry, customer service needs to be a top priority within your organization.
This means more than the traditional "the customer is always right" theme.
By placing an emphasis on customer service, your goal should be delivering exactly what the customer wants and expects 100% of the time. This means late deliveries and defective products need to be completely eliminated from your company's operation.
There are two levels of customers, which will be discussed in this article: internal customers and external customers.
Internal customers are groups within the organization that receive some product or information from within the company.
For example, if your controller provides your accounts receivable employee with a list of tardy accounts, the accounts receivable employee is an internal customer of the controller. As a result, the controller needs to be sure that he/she is delivering perfect information each and every time.
If special scrutiny is not placed on internal customers, the errors that occur within the organization are sure to spill out to the external customers.
The cost of less than satisfactory service to the external customer is the most significant. Future business can be lost, bad public relations and generic costs associated with returns and rework are common once the defect has reached the external customer. Keeping this in mind, your company needs to have checks in place to ensure that nothing but your best leaves your facility. The losses associated with poor products or service is far greater than the costs of fixing the problem in house. Don't trade short-term cost savings for long-term losses.
Delivering the best product or service is one thing, but listening to what the customer wants is another. It doesn't mean a whole lot if your product is great if it's not what the customer wants. Make sure that your company has a feedback forum where you can receive as much customer feedback as possible. All of your research and development of new products needs to be based on sound customer data. You need to be sure that the product and service you are creating has the specifications and details that your customer base wants.
Once you begin receiving customer feedback, make sure that the information is being delivered to the appropriate parties. This may mean some employees (yourself included) may need to take an ego-hit. The product or service created within your company may need significant changes in order to meet customer expectations and desires. Remember, it's far more important that your customers get what they want rather than create what you think the customer wants.
When a customer calls to complain about an unsatisfactory service or product, they are really calling to be heard. Your customer service department needs to be trained to listen and offer sympathy to the customer. The customer may come out on the attack, and it's crucial that your customer service representatives treat the customer gingerly and remain calm.
There's an exercise you can run with your employees; have them think of an unsatisfactory experience with a company and how they would call and complain. Have them reverse rolls and act as the customer service representative. How would they want the company to respond? How would they want the employees to talk to them?
This can be a revealing exercise and usually demonstrates how a complaining customer is dealt with is equally as important as the final result.
Why Customer Service Matters
Without customers you do not have a company. Without repeat customers, you do not have a sustainable company.
As a result, customer service and delivering what the customer wants is key to the success of any small business. Make sure that customer service is a top priority within your organization. Without satisfied customers, there's nowhere to go but down.
Andrew Goldman is an Isenberg School of Management MBA student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has extensive experience working with small businesses on a consulting basis.
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