Your goals for this book on customer care are to understand why customer service is more important than ever and how it could transform your business if you are really serious about delivering excellent customer care
In this book we will look at what it is, why it is important and how to go about putting a programme into place.
Why customer care is important
Think of companies and organisations that give great customer service. We all have our favourites and some may disagree about one of your choices because they have had a bad experience.
We have a small delicatessen in my home town of York with 3 employees. The service is second to none. If you see something you haven’t tried before they will give you a taste. If they don’t have what you want they will get some and they are unfailingly friendly and helpful.
As companies grow it becomes harder to deliver consistently high levels of service. Again, one of my favourites is the food retailer Prêt a Manger. My personal experience with them is that they major on freshness and helpful and friendly staff and have very high standards of hygiene and cleanliness. Other companies that consistently win customer service awards are retailers Waitrose and John Lewis.
Organisations don’t go to all this effort because it is a nice thing to do. They do it because it increases sales, customer loyalty and makes more profit in the long term.
Customer care can be defined as:
The process of delivering high quality service to internal and external customers. Customer care results in high levels of customer satisfaction leading to long-term `buying’ relationships between suppliers and customers.
Organisations that provide a high standard of customer care tend to have the following characteristics.
• High quality products or services that represent value for money.
• A high standard of after-sales service.
• Friendly and helpful staff who are well trained and knowledgeable.
• A positive response to customer enquiries and demands.
• A `can do’ rather than a `can’t do’ approach.
• A regular appraisal of the service they provide in order to improve that service.
• The ability to be self-critical in a positive way.
‘The call centre experience’
We are all customers. We shop, we bank we buy goods and services from a wide range of organisations and we all have an opinion about service. In recent years technology has enabled large organisations to centralise and communication is increasingly carried out over the phone or by e-mail.
When we have a problem, we want to deal with someone who is honest, friendly, reliable, knowledgeable, and trustworthy can solve our problem quickly. When asked, most people rate service more highly than the actual product and price, yet our day to day experience with Utility companies, Banks and other large organisations is often poor if not downright criminal
When was the last time you rang a call centre? How happy were you with the service you got?
Things I hate about call centres:
• They make you wait before talking to you
• They make you choose from options before talking to you
• They play music while you are waiting
• They try to direct you to their website to solve your problem because it saves them money
• They make it difficult to sort your problem out
• They tell you how important you are but don’t treat you as if they mean it. If you were that important they would employ more staff
• You never talk to the same person twice
• They insist you repeat information unnecessarily
• They don’t employ enough staff, or the staff they do employ are based abroad and don’t always have good local knowledge
• They don’t care!
But it’s not just call centres. People in retail environments are often rude and unhelpful, not because they are bad people but they are often poorly trained, badly managed and working under pressure.
Yet if you listen to the people at the top of these organisations they regularly come out with phrases like “We are totally customer focused” and “Our people are our greatest asset.”
Not true. To deliver excellent customer care needs commitment from the top of the organisation, investment in training and equipment and proper management on an ongoing basis. It also requires feedback from the poor customers and staff who are experiencing the service and suffering at the coal face.
Some reasons why customer care is important were highlighted in a survey carried out by the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) in 2009. Their main conclusions were:
• Only 1 customer in 10 with grounds for complaint actually does so.
• Those customers who experience problems tell between 8 and 15 people about the problems, whether or not they have formally complained.
• 9 out of 10 people who complain and have a problem that is not dealt with satisfactorily will never buy again from that supplier, or do so as a last resort.
• 9 out of 10 people who complain and have a problem that is dealt with satisfactorily will buy again from that supplier. In fact, they rate the supplier higher than if the problem never occurred in the first place
• It costs 5 times more to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one.
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