To Improve Customer Service"
(When the Las Vegas Sun decided to do an article on the do's and don'ts of good customer service it turned to Doug Howardell of ACA. Click Here to read what Doug told the leading newspaper in the city where customer service is everything.)
Stop me if you've heard this before. Your CEO or some other top management type addresses the troops in an attempt to rally them to do better.
"Our customers are revolting! They are demanding more for less. They want world class products and services. They want it all and they want it now. If we can't provide what they want, they will find some one who can. Customer loyalty is a myth formed in the mist of our distant past. We must be closer to our customers then ever. We must provide great customer service."
I'd bet some version of this speech has been made at every company in America.
OK, that's really two questions. You may find yourself facing the same executive pressure to improve customer service, and you may be asking the same questions. What we need is a clear definition of customer service and a plan to improve it based on that definition. I offer the following.
Definition of Customer Service:
According to the ACA Group, www.theacagroup.com, customer service is the ability of an organization to constantly and consistently give the customer what they want and need. The ACA Group is an alliance of highly trained and experienced consultants and instructors providing Consulting Services, Training & Education to a variety of manufacturing and service organizations, in both the public and private sectors ranging from five million dollars in annual sales to Fortune 500 companies. The ACA Group defines excellent customer service as the ability of an organization to constantly and consistently exceed the customer's expectations. The ACA Group offers a variety of customer service classes and consulting services. Learn more
This definition goes beyond the traditional way we think about customer service. It covers areas that do not come in direct contact with the customer at all. Manufacturing, purchasing and quality control may never talk to the end user of our products, yet they are vital in meeting the customer's needs. If we deliver an expensive product that doesn't work and we deliver it late, that affects customer service just as much as a rude salesperson. The entire enterprise must pull together to provide excellent customer service.
To learn the difference between good and excellent customer service, download the full article.
Customer Service Improvement Focus Areas
Given that definition, how then do we go about improving our ability to constantly and consistently give the customer what they want and need?
"In order to compete in a truly customer-driven manner, an enterprise must integrate its entire range of business functions around satisfying the individual needs of individual customers - not just marketing, customer service and sales, but production logistics, and financial measurement and metrics." Enterprise One to One by Don Peters and Martha Rodgers
Organizations exceed customer expectations by focusing improvement efforts in three areas: customer friendly processes, employee commitment to customer service, and customer dialog according to Eberhard Scheuing in his book Creating Customers for Life. You must be excellent in all three areas to achieve excellent customer service.
To learn how to be excellent in all three customer focus areas, download the full article.
Assessment / Needs Analysis
So now we know the definition of customer service and we know where to look to improve customer service. But how do we start a customer service improvement project? The first step in improving customer service is the assessment of each of the critical aspects of the focus areas identified above. Those areas where operational improvements will lead to improved customer service have to be identified. The assessment acts as a strategic customer service improvement plan and training needs analysis that will lead to accomplishment of your customer service goals. The ACA Group can help you design and implement a customer service analysis. Learn more
"Good customer service means looking after every whim of the customer but only within the window you have defined as your particular customer service product." Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard
Once you assessed you organizational needs, you have to decide where to start fixing things. Do you start with employee commitment to customer service, with your business processes or with your customer communications?
To learn where to start improving you customer service, download the full article.
The ACA Group offers a variety of customer service classes and consulting services. Learn more
K. Howardell, CPIM
The ACA Group
© The ACA Group 2004