Who is a customer?
A customer is a person who is regarded as a king by a sales/marketing organisation as he/she buys goods/services or helps in the sales process to helps the goods to reach and be consumed by the end user. A customer is also referred to as a ‘MAN’, i.e. a person who has;
M – Money
A – Authority
N – Need to satisfy
What is customer service?
Customer service is the act of taking care of the customer’s needs by providing and delivering professional, helpful, high quality service and assistance before, during, and after the customer’s requirements are met.
Features of good customer service
Customer service is the act of taking care of the customer’s needs by providing and delivering professional, helpful, high quality service and assistance before, during, and after the customer’s requirements are met. Customer service is meeting the needs and desires of any customer. Some characteristics of good customer service include:
- Promptness: Promises for delivery of products must be on time. Delays and cancellations of products should be avoided.
- Politeness: Politeness is almost a lost art. Saying ‘hello,’ ‘good afternoon,’ ‘sir,’ and ‘thank you very much’ are a part of good customer service. For any business, using good manners is appropriate whether the customer makes a purchase or not.
- Professionalism: All customers should be treated professionally, which means the use of competence or skill expected of the professional. Professionalism shows the customer that they’re cared for.
- Personalization: Using the customer’s name is very effective in producing loyalty. Customers like the idea that whom they do business with knows them on a personal level.
Importance of a customer to an organisation
- The organisation exist to fulfill the needs of the customer hence without the customer organization cannot be there.
- Customers are a source of valuable information to organisation.
- Customers helps organisation to achieve its objectives such as profit sales maximization.
- Customers gives feedback to firms about their product and customer service.
- Customers helps to market organisations products especially when they give a positive word of mouth to other people about organisations products.
- Customers sustains an organisation through repeat purchase.
- When a customer expects a higher, better service but on return get a poor low service depending on his/her knowledge and experience with the retailer, making the customer to be dissatisfied hence leading to service gap. Service gap includes:
- Knowledge gap – This is the difference between the customer’s expectation of the customer service and the retailer’s perception of the customer’s expectation of the customer service.
- Standard gap – This is the difference between the retailer’s standard and the customer it sets.
- Delivery gap – This is the difference between the retailer’s set standards and the actual customer service offered.
- Communication gap – This the difference between the actual customer service offered and the customer service promised in the retailer’s promotion program.
- Performance gap – This is the difference between the performance promised/past performance by the retailer and the actual customer service.
Solving the customer service gap
- Collect/gather information of the basic customer’s needs/requirement.
- Set standards to help deliver well the customer’s requirement.
- Develop programs to implement the set standards for a better customer requirement delivery.
- Communicate to customers of the service they should expect.
Clues to help evaluate customer service
- Tangibles; for example, appearance of the sales people, display of the merchandise in the store, store display.
- Security; i.e. security in the parking lot, are the customers comfortable to transact in the store?
- Knowledge and understanding of customers; i.e., recognizing regular customers, responding to customers issues/complaints and suggestion.
- Access; ie, convenient location, convenient operating hours and access to managers to settle issues/complaints.
- Competence; that is, knowledgeable sales people, skillful and equipped service providers.
- Trustworthy; warranties and guarantees offered, trustworthy of the retailer’s staffs while giving change/balance, goods return policy.
- Courtesy; ie, interest shown to customers, how customers are treated by the retailer’s staffs and service providers.
Nature of customer service
Customer service is different from provision of merchandise in the following aspects;
- Intangible – A service unlike general merchandise can’t be evaluated by physical aspects such as colour, weight, size hence cannot be touched or seen.
- Inconsistent – A service provider may provide a higher/better service to one customer and a poor service to the next customer depending on the service provider’s moods, judgement, experience, educational level, emotions and feelings.
- Standardization and customization – standardization involves a strict adherence to as set of rules and procedures when delivering customer service while customization involves delivery of a superior service depending on the customer’s needs hence a satisfied customer leading to customer loyalty and a positive word of mouth.
Types of customer service
There are different types of customer service that are provided by businesses. The type of service that customers encounter will depend on the product or service that a business provides, what the customers’ needs are, and whether the service is problem-oriented or focused toward enhancing the consumer’s experience.
- Support: Support services include resolution of billing queries, order taking, activation of accounts, registration of new customers and recording complaints.
- Marketing: Marketing tasks carried out through a contact center include sending outbound emails, telemarketing, surveys and poling, responding to inbound emails and management of marketing campaigns.
- Sales: Sales tasks include inbound sales, outbound sales, web chat, web call-back and co-browsing.
- Technical Support: Customers require different technical support services such as data verification, application support, address updates and problem resolution through the technical help desk.
- Customer Analytics: Customer analytics includes profitability analytics, quality auditing, reporting and complaint analysis.
Managing a conflict of interest in customer service
In most organizations there exist a conflict of interest between the organization’s interest (profits, shareholders welfare) and the customer’s interest of a high better service hence to manage this conflict, the organization policies and goals should be aligned in such a way that they guarantee a better customer service.
Customer service and complaints
Organisations should encourage customers to table their complaints by establishing a customer desk where their issues can be discussed and solved immediately. Customer’s complaints is a source of information for an organization and can benefit that organization if the complaint are acted on. Managers should also increase communication with the service providers to help reduce instances of customer’s complaints.
Customer’s complaints handling procedure
- Listen carefully, sympathetically and without interruptions
- Express regrets for any inconveniences caused.
- Assure the customer that the organization is doing its best to ensure the customer is satisfied.
- Discuss areas for which there is an agreement with the customer.
- Inquire and investigate to get the real facts relating to the complaints.
- Accept responsibility.
- Take action as fast as possible to the complaint.
- Educate the customer on ways to avoid the problem in future.
- Revisit the areas for which there’s an agreement with the customer.
- Ensure you only discuss on real issues and avoid irrelevant topics that may arise.
- Get to the root cause of the complaint to ensure that the problem does not occur ever again.
About the Author
Thank you for reading this article. The author, James Ndambiri is an avid Business Advisor and Consultant: A Tax Surgeon, Proficient Accountant, Skilled Auditor, a Guru in Financial and Investment management, Expert in Business Strategy Formulation, Business Transformation Wizard, Family Business Advisor, Lecturer, Business Coach and a Family Man.
James is the Founder, Team Leader, CEO & Managing Partner of MNC Consulting Group. MNC Consulting Group is your most trusted and respected professional business consulting firm recognised by our clients for delivering excellent business advisory and consulting services that create value to their ventures. With our focus set on value addition, we offer our clients the highest quality professional services in Accounting, Audit and assurance, Tax, Business Transformation, Investments and Financial Advisory, Family Business Advisory, Company Secretarial Services and Property Management that addresses their business needs through attracting, recruiting and retaining knowledgeable and passionate professionals who enable us to deliver superior results while contributing positively to the community in which we live and work.
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