Monday, December 19, 2011

Building and Embedding True Customer Service within the Culture of the Business

In marketing when talking about "customer service", it is often associated to something crucial for the activity. Moreover these last years, many books and articles have emphasized on the importance of customer service as a mean of competitive advantage and market leadership.

By observing different business contexts, we remark that some companies put a lot of effort to achieve "service excellence" (in this sense worldwide leader of e-commerce Am... has definitely understood the point), while others just talk about it without putting in place concrete actions.
Recently I was reading a post that detailed extremely the levels of customer service spanning from criminal services to outstanding ones.
This leads to reflexions which might explain why it seems less obvious for many (if not most) companies to embed true customer service within the current business culture.

Let's base our observation on different forms of existing structure.

In SMEs, most of the time, willingness to do well might be there, but it misses allocated resources in terms of money, people and time. Additionally managers, usually are more focused on the way to develop the activity, settle down on their niche, gain new market shares. In the meantime, if there are few employees, they have to look after all other services including of course customer needs.
Roughly, in one hand the economic development is a priority for every company (small as well as large ones) but in the other hand, concentrating all efforts to maximize profits while killing customer services may conduct to loose customers.

One of the solutions to find a just balance might be to integrate (from the beginning) in the company culture, the notion of "services obsession" as one of the fundamental «raison d'ĂȘtre» of the company and that is definitely what this web marketing and seo services company has always done. Also empower all employees by making each of them assume a part of responsibility in the processes of providing the expected services.

In medium firms, generally services problems arise in part because those involved on managing customers (marketing, selling, manufacturing), have different approaches and sensitivity on how the customer is perceived. The key task might reside in the creation of a coordination office composed by a team completely devoted to communication and sharing information efficiently in order to develop and sustain appropriate customer service levels.
Speaking from experience, couple of months ago, I bought pair of shoes whose I was quite disappointed from 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 "I" as a "customer" to provide such "internal answer" to someone supposed to work inside the supplier company and to manage customer requests ?

Some could think reason for questioning the customer resides in getting his point of view, while others could conclude that, in that company, there is a real issue with internal coordination such as: communication transparency and share of information between team members of "service" department. So, coordinate internally all customer service activities would certainly avoid a duplication of effort either from customers or 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 service components may request the intervention of different employees with different functions inside the business support department, going from those who are responsible for the costumer's request for specifications and quotation to those who look after about order and after-sales warranty. What is essential thus, is to build a solid and fluid organizational structure that help in the integration of all customer services components. Meanwhile convincing employees from all transversal functions and roles that everyone is concerned by complete and total customers satisfaction.

For sure as "lack of services" exists, "customer services" is and will definitely remain a frequent topic in the business area. Nowadays, what might be challenging for marketing managers is to find the way to root in their strategies the culture of "good service" as a rule and no more as an exception.

Please feel free to share your thoughts below; I appreciate every agree or disagree comments and promise to pay extra attention to any opposing point of view. For any issues in line with raised subjects, I am reachable via : my website, by email: services[at]rokbarry[dot]com or through Twitter: @RokBarry