Monday, December 19, 2011

Building and Embedding True Customer Service within the Company's Culture

In marketing when talking about "customer service", it is often associated to something crucial for the company. Moreover, there are a lot of books and articles which emphasized on the importance of customer service as a mean of competitive advantage and market leadership.

By observing different business frames, we can see that some companies put many efforts to achieve "service excellence" , while others just talk about it without really implementing any concrete actions.

Let's base our remarks on various forms of existing structures.

In SMEs: most of the time, there is the willingness to do well, but what is missing generally are allocated resources in terms of money, people and time. Additionally managers, usually are more focused on how to expand their activity, settle down on their niche, gain new market shares, etc while the rest of the staff have to look after all other services including of course customer needs.
On the one hand, the economic development is a priority for every company but on the other hand, focusing only on financial profits without ensuring a good customer services may have negative consequences on the long term.
One of the solutions for finding a just balance might be to integrate in the company's culture, the notion of "services obsession" as one of the fundamental «raison d'ĂȘtre» of the company. It could be interesting also to empower all employees by involving them in the processes of providing the expected services.

In medium firms, generally issues related to customer services arise because those involved on managing customers (marketing, sales, manufacturing), have different approaches and sensitivity regarding customers. Therefore, it might be relevant to have a coordination office with a team fully committed to communication and sharing information efficiently in order to develop and sustain appropriate customer service levels.
Based on my own experience: a couple of months ago, I bought a pair of shoes whose I was quite disappointed of the quality. So I grabbed the email address of the manufacturer through the Internet and sent a message at headquarters in Holland. But I did not get an answer for at least 12 weeks. I decided to relaunch them and this time, I finally got a reply from the after sales services asking me whether my request had been addressed.
The question I was wondering: was that my role "me" as a "customer" to provide such "internal answer" to someone who is supposed to work inside the supplier-company and to manage customer requests ?
There are 2 possibilities: either the person from the after sale service questioned me directly because, he wanted to have my point of view. Or we can believe that, within this company, there is a real issue with internal coordination such as: communication and share of information between different entities of the customer service department. So, coordinating internally all customer service activities would certainly avoid an effort duplication from customers as well as from companies side.

In the case of large businesses, nearly all marketing managers are aware of the importance of customer services. Besides, the expression "keep close to the customer" is often waved as a crucial element in their marketing strategies. Here also, as different employees with different positions may intervene for addressing customer's needs, what is essential is to build a solid and fluid organizational structure that will foster the commitment of each employee as having a responsibility in the customer satisfaction.

Today, the challenging issue for many managers and decision makers is to find the way to connect "good customer services" into the company's culture as a rule and not as an exception.

Please feel free to share your thoughts/comments below.

Cheers ;)