Customer Service is the face of any business. Happy and satisfied customers is a prerequisite for customer retention and creating a positive image for the company. Success of any business highly depends on the services packaged with their products. Whether it is a software program which is developed to provide the services or a customer support representative providing support to the customer, it is very critical not to mess things there. Customer Service should be aligned properly with Marketing, Finance, Product development and other critical operations of the company to make sure the customer is getting served to the optimum standards.
Why is it so important to get this right? Well you can draw parallel between designing and customer service. If anything (be it a complex entity like building, vehicle or software application, or something as simple as a can opener) is designed perfectly, no one notices it. It becomes part of the regular work-flow. But if there is some flaw in it, something that is not as expected or intuitive, it gets highlighted. Same happens with customer service. Everyone expect is to be seamless. So as far as the customer is getting the service he expects, no one notices it. But as soon as the customer service experience is bad, the customer satisfaction index towards the entire company and its products dips down. That’s the nature of the game and everyone needs to accept it.
We can lay out some basic rules any company needs to follow to provide good customer service. First and foremost, don’t experiment in this area. It’s really astonishing to see how companies provide disastrous customer service just because they are experimenting with some cool new tool or technology in this area. The most common example that pops in my mind is speech recognition software to answer the customer calls. That’s a major disaster. Everyone in the software industry knows that the speech recognition technology is not yet ready to deploy as a dependable tool. Still companies use it in answering customer phone calls. No customer in the World is going to call you till they are in dire need of help and then when you ask them to speak the details, and try to interpret it with something which is not perfect, you are basically forcing them to blacklist your company. So let’s first make sure the technology we are using is sound and then use it on the customer. I think this is the last place you got to experiment.
Rule #2, don’t drag the customer to the tipping point. I think the entire reason a company has customer service is to keep the customers happy. A company should put a face in front of the customers so that the customers think that the company appreciate their business, not that you are one of zillion customers we have and we don’t care if we lose one. For instance, try to keep the wait time to a minimum. Companies should deploy good analytical tools to make sure that a customer is not holding phone for ever to be answered, or waiting for technician or delivery personal for too long to show up. Along the same lines, charge your customer reasonably. Asking insane amount of money to help a customer fix his computer on phone if it is out of warranty, or to use a feature that’s not covered in the customer’s opted plan is like burning bridges with them. This is like literally dragging the customer to the tipping point from where they have no option but look for alternatives. I understand that cost is important for the company to take into account, but showing some compassion over here might lead to a long term trust relationship with the customer.
One more thing that’s important in customer service is that the entire company should take this as a priority and stick to the commitment made to the customer. How often do you reach an airport to find out that the plane is overbooked and they don’t have space for you? Or your flight got cancelled for some “unknown” reason with no alternative but to wait? Or you reserved a rental car and that type of car is not available ( Or in Seinfeld’s World – they know how to take reservations, but they don’t know how to hold ’em.)? This should never happen. If as a company you are committing something to your customer, you need to stand behind it. Every company should have system in place to fulfil the commitment made to the customers.
In short, go an extra mile to keep the Customer satisfaction high, because you can have great products, awesome supply-chain and what not, but if you don’t have a satisfied and happy customer, you can not succeed.