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The simplest way to make your business succeed or fail. October 10, 2012

Posted by thefieldgeneral in Leadership, Project Management.

I recently had an awful customer service experience with Laureate Medical Group, an Atlanta health care provider. This reminded me how critical Customer Service is. The only more critical issue is the product itself. The thing is, improving the product is hard and complex. Providing good customer service may not be easy, but it is relatively simple.

Most people think of customer service and certain negative thoughts pop into their heads. Phone Trees, Call Centers, and being on hold are all popular images.”Musac”, the poor imitation music that plays endlessly while you are on hold, sort captures the image as well. I used to call into one offshore call center that played a stylized version of the theme song from the good, the bad, and the ugly while you were on hold. I always wondered if the managers of that call center were just clueless, or if they were trying to tell me something.

Customer Service does not have to be depressing, however. In fact, most of us serve customers, internally or externally, every day. Customer Service is ultimately providing a service or support to an individual or company. Doing this well requires a focus on the customer’s needs and a thorough understanding of the product or service you are supporting. Everyone has customers. They may be people who are paying for your service. They may be your manager or another department. Serving those customers well is critical to business success.

Why is it important that we provide excellent customer service?It is the simplest long term way for customers to gauge their importance to your company, to build good will with those customers, and to sell them more product.

A customer that feels valued is likely to stay with you. A customer that feels unvalued is likely to leave. Customers tend to have significantly more exposure to non-sales components of your company than to sales. No matter how your sales people try to make them feel important, the day to day actions of your non sales staff say more. Don’t forget, even internal customers can be lost. It’s a sad day for a company when one department outsources the activities of another department because of ongoing quality issues.

Solving problems for a customer tends to build up good will. Many customers will even accept an inferior product if the service makes them feel important. Please don’t misunderstand me,it is not enough to feed the clients ego. Many companies teach their people to listen and nod and do nothing. This may work with some customers, but the savvy folk will recognize that you are not helping them. Nothing says you don’t matter like ignoring a customers need.

Seth Godin talks a lot about permission marketing. That concept is a little more complex than I can go into here, but the key to the concept is that your best salesmen and your best prospects, are your happy satisfied customers. Finding a customer is hard and expensive. Selling something new and useful to a satisfied customer tends to be easy. You have their attention and their trust. Apple is a great example here. I like their products, but their customer service has blown me away. After a couple of interactions, I am a fan

Word of mouth is another critical sales value that a satisfied customer will provide. Anyone who does high end sales or sales of non-tangibles like insurance or investments will tell you that a personal reference increases their likelihood of making a sale tremendously. Thus satisfied customers not only buy more for themselves, they recommend you to others.

The reverse is also true and even more powerful. Negative customer experiences are amplified through the megaphones of Twitter and Facebook. Frustrated consumers are no longer limited to telling only their friends and acquaintances. They can now scream it across the World Wide Web. Most major companies have taken to monitoring these mediums to help limit the damage dissatisfied customers can do.

Finally, the processes and policies of your company are designed to make customer interaction consistent and high quality. Think for yourself and do the right thing. Don’t be a robot and allow a broken process to drive away a customer.

I firmly believe that every employee is responsible for customer service. It’s our job to put the “Wow” into the customer experience as Michael Hyatt says. We need to make our customers feel valued, solve their problems, and act to make things work for the customer when processes are broken and not serving the need. If we do these things, we’ll see higher customer satisfaction and our customers will buy more product and tell their friends to buy from us as well.

Have you ever had a customer service experience that left you saying “that’s a great company, I’ll buy from them again”?

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