Understanding Customer Service

Understanding Customer Service

5 C’s: Customer Service From A Customers Point Of View

I am constantly amazed at all the lousy customer service that companies are guilty of perpetrating on their customers. We want to buy a product, we know that they need to make a profit, but we would like it to be a mutually fulfilling transaction. We walk into retail stores and sales people act like we are an annoyance instead of a customer. We are ignored by restaurant wait staff, or we buy from retailers online who are not open about what is in stock or how long it will take for us to receive the product that we have ordered. Try asking a company sometime where their product is manufactured. (I prefer to buy a product made in the USA or by one of its allies if possible.) We ask a simple question only to be met with half truths or even full blown lies. 

Below are five words that begins with C’s that I believe will go a long way toward making sure that we are taking customer service seriously.
Concern: Do I Really Care About My Customer?

While upgrading computers in our office I went to a site where I have purchased refurbished computers in the past. They had the systems I wanted, I added then to the cart and then they offered me an option to buy a warranty for the product on top of the refurbishers 60 day warranty. This added around another $30.00 or so to the price of each computer. The computers no longer looked like such a good deal. After a Google search I find the same item for approximately the same cost from the same refurbisher with a different retailer. The difference is that it comes with a 1 year warranty from the refurbisher if I use the second vendor. I wondered if the first site was more concerned about me or the money it was making on selling warranties. In the future our business will be going elsewhere. Their $60.00 warranty could end up costing them thousands of dollars from our company in the future. Treat customers well and the money will follow. Show real concern for this person who has chosen to give you their cash.
Clarity: Does My Customer Understand What They Are Buying? 

There are few feelings worse than forking over the cash for a product or service only to find out it did not live up to our expectations. Are you clear and honest with your customers? If you say a product in in stock, is it? Recently we ordered paper from a supplier who showed the item was in stock. After a couple of days we began to wonder where the tracking information was, so we contacted the company. "Oh, we only produce the paper after it is ordered". (If you look at the very bottom of the page you will see it in very small print.) You have to add production time of at least two days. I don’t believe that meets anyone’s definition of “in stock”. Then the supplier had equipment issues and the order was delayed beyond our customers deadline. The result was the paper order was canceled.
Consistency: Is Everyone Offering The Same High Level Of Service Each And Every Time They Interact With The Customer? 

I am a firm believer that everyone is in customer service. We exist for one reason and that is to serve customers who provide us with the cash we need to carry on our lives. A company or individual doing business with us is a privilege and an honor that is earned. Therefore we need to be as customer centric as possible.

Unfortunately, many people do not see it that way. They do not consider the customer as they go about their job indeed I have seen people who regard the customer as an inconvenience. In the business forms industry this attitude is usually typified by what I call the “it’s just ink on paper”mind set. Printers are in the image business. It is our job to make our customers look as good and professional as possible. Neatness does count, colors must match, business forms must line up part to part.

Encourage your entire team from sales to shipping to think with a customer service oriented mind set. If they don’t or won’t, find someone who will. It does little good to offer great customer service in sales if manufacturing is undermining it with shoddy quality control, inferior materials or missed deadlines. 

Communication: Is My Customer Aware Of What Is Going On? 

When there is a problem, do you let your customer know or do you cross your fingers and hope it all works out in the end? A day of reckoning is coming and it will be sooner rather than later. When there is a problem contact the customer immediately. Don’t be a coward and send an e-mail that may be read later either, pick up the phone, clearly state the problem and offer a solution to the problem.

    Consider all the ramifications of the problem for the customer. Will it ship later than the due date? Are the shipping cost going to be more if the job is shipped in two different shipments? Do I need to expedite the shipping at our expense to meet the customers deadline? Don’t make this your customers problem take ownership of the problem and provide a workable solution for your customer.
Common Sense: Am I Doing Things That Frustrate Or Annoy My Customer?

After a failed attempt at customer service from a vendor, I received an invite to like them on their Facebook page. I was dumbfounded. Another favorite is the office supply store that constantly sends me discount coupons for products that I do not buy. Not only do they not know my purchasing history, they taunt me with discounts for products I have never bought from them. I am sure we all hate the ads that follow us around on the internet even when you send a do not track header with your information. Stop it! Annoy enough people and laws will be passed to stop your creepy stalker marketing. I won’t even get started about poorly designed websites.

Consumers want and need to buy products but they do not have to buy them from you. Win their hard earned dollars by offering customer service that says I know you and appreciate the fact that you have chosen our company to do business with. Go the extra mile without having to be asked. Above all when you receive exceptional customer service acknowledge it. Tell a manager about how someone in their organization did an exceptional job for you. Strive to be a model of customer service that others can emulate.