Posted Thursday, February 10, 2005
According to a Forum Corporation survey of commercial customers lost by 14 major service and manufacturing companies:
15% found a better service/product
15% found a cheaper service/product
20% cited “lack of contact and individual attention from the company”
50% said; “contact from old suppliers” personnel was poor in quality”
These days, it seems that everyone from dog walkers to dotcoms is making “customer service” their mission. Department, discount and convenience stores have all transformed the workers who used to be known as “sales clerks” into “customer service associates”- in theory at least. A recent survey of large corporation CEOs revealed that 67% had customer service earmarked as their top priority. Here are the 5 ways successful managers should implement to increase customer focus.
1. Targeted recruiting and hiring. Today’s managers are faced with the challenge of recruiting and hiring people who value customers. The concern far exceeds hiring the right talent; it includes the awareness of hiring for the cultural fit of their organization. It is true that a strong correlation exists between hiring the right customer service talent and customer satisfaction, effective productivity and increased bottom line profitability.
2. Listen for what customers really need. While the extra effort being put forth to be customer focused is encouraging, there is a big difference between customer service and customer satisfaction. This is where many companies get confused and customer service efforts can go awry. Customer satisfaction is an outcome; customer service is a means or strategy for achieving that outcome. To move toward greater customer satisfaction, businesses must focus on what it is that, indeed, satisfies the customer instead of just focusing on the activities themselves.
3. Handle tough customers with tact. Quality of service is what distinguishes one company from another. Far more than in product-producing companies, in service organizations. The actions of people are the key to quality. The leadership skills of managers in service organizations can contribute significantly to the quality of customer service efforts.
4. Conduct customer surveys. Develop and implement a customer survey program. This will attempt to understand customers’ satisfaction with the company, its products and services. Companies will ask key questions about the customers’ experiences and determine the overall level of customer satisfaction. Compare results of survey against internal performance measurements to ensure their validity. Managers will use such survey results to understand customer expectation and increase customer loyalty.
5. Motivate employees to be customer-focused. Managers need to create a sense of enthusiasm and energy that would be powerful and contagious for their employees and customers. Employee excitement, know how and determination offer insights to the growth of customer base and success of any organization. Incorporating true customer focus into company practices simply makes good business sense. It not only helps good managers become better managers, but more effective leaders. Bringing with it continual improvement, it also aids organizations so that they are better able to take advantage of, and adapt to, the changing environment that is today’s marketplace. Business can’t exist without customers, and customers don’t let businesses exist without customer service. This all-important aspect of your company begins with becoming customer-focused. Instead of viewing things from your business’ perspective, you must learn to view circumstances from that of your clients. To stay successful, customer satisfaction is a must!
Tips & Tactics
• Pay attention to customer feedback: It’s the only way you’ll really know what they want
• Embrace Technology: It can help you save tremendously on customer service costs.
• Make customer satisfaction a priority: From the top executives down, give your corporate culture a customer-focused angle.
About the Author
Vera Haitayan, Principal Consultant of The Leadership Laboratory., a California-based employee development and process improvement consulting firm and is the senior editor of The Stepping Stone Newsletter featuring leadership and process improvement best practices. (http://www.1leadershiplab.com) mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org