This is an article I wrote back in 1997 for Bodylife magazine
Quality Customer Service
The emergence of the concept of Quality Customer Service (QCS) is the embodiment of the will to survive in the business world of the nineties and well into the next millennium.
Simple, customers are becoming better informed, more discriminating, more discerning and treat every dollar as if it was an investment. Bang for the buck and a return on investment (ROI) is what is no longer expected but demanded. Customers demand superior service, advice, counsel, and support.
The hidden message is if you are not providing it start worrying.
Here is why:
- 96% of poorly serviced customers suffer in silence, vote with their feet, and go elsewhere.
- A customer with a bad experience will tell anywhere from 9 to 19 A customer who receives excellent service will tell only 3 to 6 people. Beware of the power of word of mouth!
- Unhappy customers will also tell third parties i.e. radio, television, newspapers, etc. Beware of the power of the media!
- 70% of customers who do complain will do further business if the complaint is resolved. The rate climbs to 90% the quicker the resolution.
Customers stop patronizing a business for the following reasons:
- 1% die
- 3% move away
- 5% develop other interests
- 9% go to the competition
- 14% product dissatisfaction
- 68% rudeness, indifference, or disrespect
Quality customer service is the only response possible under these circumstances.
To do that you must only understand the four basic customer needs that must be met:
- Customers need to be understood
- Customers need to feel welcome
- Customers need to feel important, valued and respected
- Customers need to feel comfortable
True quality customer service requires a genuine heart felt philosophical commitment on the part of the business owner, all employees, managers, and front-line staff. Businesses must understand that the only reason for their existence is to create a customer and them keep them for life!
Customer service training such as telephone handling techniques, courtesy, smiling, non-verbal communication, listening techniques and dealing with objections/difficult customers is only a response to a symptom and will not in and of itself solve the perceived customer service problems.
Teach employees to be customer oriented. Complaints need not be handled by specialized staff in specialized departments. Trust employees to make the right decisions to satisfy the customer. Encourage and reward feedback and ideas from the front-line staff.
To immediately increase your level of customer service, try the following action plan:
- As a key decision maker take full responsibility for improving customer service
- Polling is an invaluable tool extensively used for political purposes to test and gauge the mood of the public on specific issues, interests, and commitments. Implement your own informal poll by talking to customers and asking the right questions. Institute your own formal survey of the needs, concerns and moods of your customers. From this information gathering ands analysis, set and measure your own customer service goals. Under promise and overdeliver!
- Lead by example. Actions speak louder than words. Do something extraordinary. It is the stuff of man, myth and legend!
- Treat all your customers as well as your staff as honest and forthright individuals.
- Break out of the traditional thinking box. Invert your organization chart and place the customer as the most important person in the business followed by the front line staff, management and ownership.
- Reward and recognize exceptional service by employees on an ongoing basis.
- Reward and recognize exceptional customers on an ongoing basis.
- Hire and train “low maintenance” front line staff that are mature, well balanced reasonable and prudent people.
- Practice and reinforce quality customer service through an ongoing comprehensive training commitment.
- Empower and encourage your employees to take reasonable and prudent immediate action using the spirit and frame of reference of the company policies and procedures not the minutia of the documents.
- Keep your employees well informed with regular staff meetings, bulletins, and newsletters. Customers informing the staff is embarrassing and demoralizing.
- Job roles and responsibilities as well as cross training are critical to quality customer service.
- Graduated and segmental rotation of employees through all operations of the business is important to producing valuable versatile employees.
- Treat all employees with respect and dignity so that they will in turn treat the customer in kind.