Article contributed by Dr. Almas Tazein, Limited

“People think of loyalty as a customer for a lifetime, but it’s really much simpler than that.
It’s about the next time, every time.” – Shep Hyken.

A sensitive situation where a customer felt respected and understood, where his grievance was handled with ultimate finesse, or a split-second of arrogance – these can be the deal-breakers or makers. How they are handled as an organisation, with all the customer service jargons, SOPs and protocols at our disposal is crucial. Sometimes, there is no policy to lean on, because the state of affairs is so novel and alien. Someplace else, we need to bypass that dogmatic company rule and consider an alternative solution, for the better, and a policy change emerges. The core values of service delivery define refined customer service.

There are two possibilities in the case of a satisfied customer: He gives a 7/10 to the overall experience of the services in an ABC company, where all his product and service needs were met. That same customer after a few months gives a 9/10 for the same criteria. The only difference this time was, he had a complaint, and his grievance was addressed to his utmost satisfaction. This is the concept of service recovery paradox.

What do we do to seize this disguised opportunity in a situation similar to the latter?

Customer service transcends the frontline of the organisation – from the CEO at the top management, to the task workers at the bottom, it is a reflection of the principles and culture of an organisation – as a whole, where everyone speaks one language – unsurpassed customer service ethics.

It is alarming to know that,
441 billion is lost by US companies each year due to poor customer service.
82% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company because of bad customer service.
79% of high-income households avoid vendors for 2+ years after a bad customer experience, and
66% of customers switch companies due to poor service.

Here is a pragmatic guide to some of most relevant Best Practice Reports that has published in the customer service management domain.

Index of Best Practice Reports – Includes new and old (but still relevant ) reports
1Customer Service Training
2Customer Service Excellence
3Customer Satisfaction Management
4Customer Complaint Resolution 2
5Customer Complaints Resolution
6Call Centre Representatives
7Customer Support and Service
8Customer Satisfaction Surveys
9Emotional Intelligence
10Relationship Management

1. Customer Service Training
There are essentially two types of training in the provision of customer service. The first refers to developing traits or characteristics such as professionalism, politeness, promptness, personalisation, enthusiasm or friendliness. The second refers to developing technical knowledge or know-how, depending on the products or services offered. To be a good customer service agent, you need to have the characteristics and the technical ability to solve problems and enhance the customer experience.

Customers are the reason businesses exist and flourish. Developing a service-orientated culture helps prevent serious consequences like losing customers forever, putting the survival of the company at risk, law suits, and also giving a poor image of the company – nationally and internationally.

80% of businesses believe that they already deliver high-quality customer service, but only 8% of their customers agree. Here are the 100 Customer Service Statistics You Need To Know.

2. Customer Service Excellence
Poor service quality leads to distrust. A 2011 Consumer Reports Survey found that:

  • 65% of respondents were “tremendously annoyed” by rude salespeople
  • 64% had left a store in the previous 12 months because of poor service
  • 71% were extremely irritated when they couldn’t reach a human on the phone
  • 67% hung up the phone without getting their issue resolved.

3. Customer Satisfaction Management
Customers expect organisations to serve them consistently by: asking them what they need, telling them what the organisation will do for them—and when it will be done, doing what needs to be done on time, and, telling them what has actually been done, and when it was done.

4. Customer Complaint Resolution 2

They say angry customers are good for business. “Original research executed by TARP (Technical Assistance Research Programs – Harvard) projectable to the U.S. population shows the following for consumers who experienced a problem with a potential financial loss of more than $100: 9% of those who did not articulate the problem remained brand loyal; 19% of those who articulated the problem but were not satisfied remained brand loyal; 54% of those who articulated the problem and were satisfied remained brand loyal.

5. Customer Complaints Resolution

There are different customer resolution scenarios that one can be experience – How to tell customers you need some time to resolve their issue? What to say when you can’t resolve the issue? How to (discreetly) let a customer know it is their mistake (the deal-breaker)? How to respond to a customer who is complaining in a language you don’t understand?

A customer complaints resolution process is a formal procedure to log, investigate, and resolve any customer dissatisfaction or problems. The overarching aim of such a process is to turn around a dissatisfied customer into a satisfied one.

6. Call Centre Representatives
The role of the Customer Services Representatives (CSR) is increasingly requiring a wide skill set e.g. oral, written, product knowledge, sales, pricing, and technology skills along with an ability to handle stressful situations when dealing with customers. Jeffries & Sells (2004) measured the following correlation between customer satisfaction and CSR skills:

  • Knowledge 95% correlation
  • Accuracy 90%
  • Communicating 60%
  • Attitude 50%
  • Availability of Services 50%
  • Promptness 36%
  • Personalised Services 20%

7. Customer Support and Service

Customer support includes assistance in planning, installation, training, troubleshooting, maintenance, upgrading, and disposal of a product. Ongoing company profitability is related to how customers perceive the levels of support and service offered by an organisation. It has been predicted that the prioritization of CSS investments will be a major component relating to organisational growth over the next few years.

The economics relating to the provision of CSS i.e. the balancing of levels of service against the cost of provision is a matter of key importance requiring company-wide coordination along with the integration of MIS and communications systems.

John Wookey (2003) senior vice president, applications development, of Oracle Corporation wrote, the optimum solution for CSS is to employ a single customer model across an enterprise and to use collaborative CRM technologies which can collect and synchronize data from multiple knowledge sources.

8. Customer Satisfaction Surveys

A survey is designed to obtain customer feedback on satisfaction with an organisation’s products and/or services, and its major motive is to build a brand.

Craig Bailey (2002) founder of Customer Centricity (a customer relationship consulting company) notes “Make no mistake, business is about numbers. In my opinion, there are two sets of numbers that every company must track and manage: the financials and customer satisfactions levels. If executives of a corporation only care about the financial indicators, the company will lose sight of their source of revenue – the customer”.

9. Emotional Intelligence

We have been led to believe that our IQ is the best measure of human potential. In the past 10 years, however, researchers have found that this isn’t necessarily the case and that a person’s emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) in actuality, is a greater predictor of success in life and work. EQ can have more explicit applications in the conflict resolution and customer service domains. Unlike IQ, EQ can be developed and worked upon.

Success stories: U.S Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) recognised that many of its personnel required high components of EI to effectively fulfil their roles within the organisation. Developing partnerships, collaboration, and working with elected officials/citizens required empathy, flexibility, impulse control, and non-confrontational relationships. MAG implemented an EI assessment, training, and coaching program that was made available to all staff on a voluntary basis.

10. Relationship Management

Research has found a 5% increase in customer retention boosts lifetime customer profits by 50% on average across multiple industries, as well as a boost of up to 90% within specific industries such as insurance (Bain & Company).

Companies that have mastered customer relationship strategies have the most successful Customer-relationship management (CRM) programs. For example, Capital One Financial Corporation, a US credit card issuer, invested heavily in a CRM programme intended to nurture its customers and ensure delivery of the right product at the right time to the right customer. The programme was so successful that it even allowed the company to deliver products that customers were not aware they needed. As a result, the company went from start-up in 1995 to industry leadership in just five years. (Ragins & Greco, 2003).

All references in this article can be found in the relevant Best Practice Reports except for the following:

– “The story behind successful CRM – Bain & Company”. Retrieved 23 November 2015.

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