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- Customer service is about delivering on a promise
- Ensure your processes, systems or people support your service promise
A customer service strategy helps you meet the specific needs of your target markets. It defines how you can let your customers know that you understand their needs and can meet them. At the core of customer service is the concept of delivering on a promise. If you promise that you are able to provide the best product or service, or that you can deliver quickly or offer the best price, you must be able to deliver on that promise.
Having a customer service strategy in place ensures your processes, systems or people don't let you down.
Ten Key Service Activities
There are ten areas you can check regularly to see if your customer service is helping you keep your current customers and attract new ones:
- products and services information - explaining clearly what you offer
- counter and face-to-face service - helping customers meet their needs
- telephone service - quick, accurate service
- taking customer orders - making it easy to buy
- follow-up - relevant and timely follow-up
- billing and managing payments - making it clear and easy to pay
- visiting the customer - arriving on time
- making repairs - fixed first time on time
- handling complaints- turning complaints to compliments
- managing your service culture - a customer-focused business.
The service process
The service process helps you exceed customer expectations and encourage loyalty. There are five overall dimensions of customer expectations:
- reliability: the ability to perform as promised, dependably and accurately
- tangibles: the business image as represented by the appearance of physical facilities, equipment, personnel and communication materials
- responsiveness: your willingness to help customers and provide prompt service
- assurance: the knowledge and courtesy of your employees and their ability to convey trust and confidence to your customers
- empathy: the caring, individualised attention provided to the customer.
Start with reliabilityCustomers value reliability when it comes to delivering the service or product that you promised. Invariably a customer will consider that your business meets expectations if your service is delivered within the time, cost and speed that you promised. Regardless of how we measure customer services satisfaction, reliability comes in first. Businesses are expected to be accurate and dependable and provide the products and services they promised to provide.
How to exceed expectations
Although reliability is the most important dimension in meeting customer expectations, assurance, responsiveness and empathy are most important in exceeding customer expectations. When we ask customers what a business can do to exceed their expectations, they often refer to the service dimensions that provide an extra level of care, attention and courtesy.
Steps to achieve customer service excellence
Look at all the places in your customer touch points and anything else which might impact on your ability to deliver excellence. Then implement the following seven steps to customer service excellence:
1. involve staff in the process of service development and continuous improvement
2. check for any service ‘gaps’
3. develop customer service standards to match your ‘promise to customers’
4. put in systems as a priority to ensure consistency
5. organise ongoing staff training
6. empower staff to make decisions
7. regularly monitor and measure your performance.
Customer service excellence leads to customer satisfaction which in turn leads to repeat purchases, loyal customers, enhanced reputation and brand - and higher profits.