Success Proportional to Customer Service Quality

by Doug Brown

Since 1985, many of the largest organizations of their kind in the world have tapped into Doug's consulting expertise and experience. As a management and sales consultant, Doug works side-by-side with an organization's senior executives and teams of thought leaders on issues of strategic importance. Together they quickly distill what strategies and tactics will be necessary to achieve their desired business results and metrics, whether via top line sales growth or bottom line profitability. Business leaders who relish intellectual stimulation and don't shy away from being asked 'tough questions' will get the greatest benefit as a result of working with Doug. Organizational leaders who are willing to question their own underlying assumptions and proactively embrace change truly appreciate his thought provoking approach. To stay grounded in reality, Doug insists that everyone bring all of their business acumen and common sense to the table. He then finds a way to leverage it to their collective benefit. As a result, they experience a tremendous return on their investment.

The ability to deliver excellent customer service is as important to the success of a company as the quality of goods and services they offer. Statistics show that clients will pay higher prices if they find competitive satisfaction in the transaction.

According to the Better Business Bureau, 94% of disappointed clients never report their complaints - Instead, they just don't return. In addition they share their dissatisfaction with their friends and relatives, further reducing a company's potential market share.

It's evident that the bottom line success of most customer service oriented companies is directly proportional to the quality levels of their customer service. Therefore, as a business executive, you should ask yourself if you are taking advantage of all the tools available to your customer service department.

Questions you should be asking include:

  • Are your clients satisfied? How do you know?

  • What is your percentage of lost business based on unreported complaints?

  • How do you know what you have lost?

  • What is your consumer price comfort index?

The sale process, whether you are selling a product or a service is a progression. The following are seven key steps to ensuring customer service excellence:

    Rapport: Developing a rapport with clients is crucial. People love compliments and a friendly smile - they exude acceptance and friendliness. A friendly smile from a cashier in a convenience store goes a long way. Chances are they will earn your business even if their prices are higher than the store on the other corner. A client's first step in the sale process is to "buy" the attitude and demeanor of the front line customer service representative.

    Discovery: The next step is to discover the specific needs of the client. Ask questions and offer assistance - What seems to be the problem?" "How can we help you?" "I'm sorry you didn't like the soup. May we offer a substitute?" Develop a checklist of areas of likely failures. This may avoid future potential problems unknown to the client, and will add increased value to the service call.

    Solutions: Once complaints have been identified, resolve the problem. Never allow a tight budget to compromise quality service. Within reason, do whatever is necessary to fix the problem. Failure to do so could lead to future damaged business relations. People appreciate honesty and quality service. Excellent customer service personnel assume ownership of the solution and are accountable for their service. However, they must be backed by management who should support empowerment of front line personnel.

    Call Backs: Callbacks occur when a problem is not resolved satisfactorily the first time. They eat profits and annoy clients. To avoid callbacks, identify areas of potential failures and develop a comprehensive checklist. Be thorough and note all questionable concerns to management and the client.

    Clients from Hell: Contrary to popular belief, the client is not always right. According to Technical Assistance Research Programs, Inc. (TARP) of Washington, DC, up to 30% of products and service problems reported to companies result from client error and product misuse. And often, the client who caused their own problems is loud and obnoxious. Dealing with such clients requires excellent communication skills, transactional analysis education and strong management support. Be firm, but be professional. Don't allow such clients to take advantage of you.

    Follow-Up: After closing a sale or providing a service, follow-up with your client. Call and ask if they are satisfied with the product or service. It makes them feel important and appreciated, and it increases your chances of retaining your client.

    Report Card:: Finally, keep a "report card" of how well your customer service staff is doing. Consider sending a bi-monthly survey to all current clients. This will enable you to grade the overall performance of your front line personnel and determine how well your company is doing. Additionally, an annual survey and reminder directed at your infrequent clients will check your market share status to maintain your image and presence. While you won't receive a 100% return on surveys, the percentage will give you an estimate of how well your company is performing.