Successful customer service is the Holy Grail for most businesses, small, medium, or large. Countless conference calls, meetings, white papers, and statistics have been offered up to this quest, with varying degrees of success.
While metrics and methods certainly contribute to excellence in customer service, it's the basics that many businesses seem to overlook. Customer service, rather than a series of processes that can be applied uniformly across businesses, industries, and cultures, is actually an agreement between business owners, employees, and customers. This agreement, when properly encouraged, provides a mutually beneficial partnership where all parties benefit.
It's important to remember all three partners when discussing ways to breakthrough to stellar customer service. Management, employees, and customers all have a stake in customer service, so the needs of all three groups should be considered.
- Business leaders must balance the need for profit, development, and waste reduction with the needs of the consumer and the employee. It's a fine line between maintaining the bottom line and alienating customers.
- Leaders must have clearly-stated, understandable guidelines for employees that align with core business goals. These guidelines should allow for "wiggle room." Sometimes, the best way to create long-term good will is to know the difference between a good rule, and a better bent rule.
- It is crucial for non-management employees to have a full understanding of the core business values, as well as a personal stake in the success of the business. While this stake usually takes the form of monetary compensation, there are other ways to inspire employee investment.
- Employees become invested in companies they believe in, where they are valued and their needs and ideas are included in business decisions. By encouraging and (where possible) incorporating employee input into company decisions, business leaders can create a cooperative relationship with employees while improving morale and work ethic.
- A business without customers doesn't last very long. In order to engage customers and inspire brand loyalty, it's important to develop communication. This can be done through social media, community involvement, and other marketing methods.
- Communication must stay two-way. This means not only sharing new products and services with the public, but also gathering meaningful feedback to constantly improve and evolve the brand to meet the needs and desires of the customer.
- The personal touch is always the best--by empowering customer-facing employees to interact positively with customers, businesses drive brand loyalty in a more personal way than through less intimate marketing strategies.
In an ironic twist of business fate, today's consumers have fewer and fewer expendable dollars, while simultaneously having more choices of where to spend those dollars than ever before. The successful business capitalizes on the knowledge that, quite often, the deciding factor is going to be customer service. It is the consumer's choice, and consumers are going to go where they feel most valued.