"Customer service" is synonymous with customer satisfaction. This is a way to show your present and potential customers that you really care about them and that they are important to you. It will establish your reputation as a company worth dealing with, and will become a vital basis for attracting business. Conversely, poor attitude on your part, indifferent service, exhibiting a discourteous, take-it-or-leave-it manner, failure to have answers to reasonable questions, and other negative relationships can harm your business. Your ratings and referrals certainly will suffer.

Your company is a service organization no matter what type of business it is - be it manufacturing, retailing, service, or whether it operates out of a factory, store, or as a homebased one-person enterprise. Your focus should be on the customer. How you treat that person/organization will be one of your most important functions. Obtaining orders and making a profit naturally will be your goals, but you first must win and keep the customer. How you succeed or not succeed will be reliant largely upon your company policies and values, and it must permeate through your entire organization.

Treat the customer as you would like to be treated if circumstances were reversed. Customer service begins with the owner, and should be reflected by how management and employees have customer satisfaction continually in mind at whatever staff level. All must have, or be trained to have a positive approach to ensure that the legitimate wants and needs of those paying the bills are satisfied. Remember that if you have a “loyal” customer (one who gives your business preference over others) that customer can actually become a part of your sales force by spreading the word about your great product/service. Of course, the opposite can occur if the customer receives poor treatment from you and/or your staff.

Employees who have one-on-one contact with the customer via the sales route, fielding phone calls, working at the information desk, e-mail communication, web site, social networks, talking to walk-ins at a service desk, must all be knowledgeable about the business, its policies, and its product. The employees must be able to communicate articulately, be calm and diplomatic when dealing with testy, adversarial individuals and be willing to go the extra mile to provide adequate answers, and must, in general, act professionally. The employees must not resort to misleading, exaggerated, or false claims about the company, service, or product. These particular employees should be monitored until we are confident of their professionalism. They are often the very first contact a potential customer has with the company, and favorable first impressions can open the door to sales, while unfavorable ones can result in losing a potential customer

Personnel with relatively little management, supervisory, or decision-making responsibilities still can, and should, be motivated to do their tasks as part of the whole picture of customer satisfaction. They can do you harm in so many ways through sloppy, indifferent work: your Billing department can overcharge or send other incorrect statements or invoices; Shipping can miss an important date or schedule; order preparers can package a wrong or defective part; service specialists can do a sloppy, unprofessional installation or repair job; and, company personnel may fail to properly evaluate the wants/needs of the customer. Management cannot afford to let these things happen and expect the customer to be a customer for very long, Keep all of your employees in the loop where service is concerned. Make them feel that they are, and indeed they may well be, important cogs (although tiny cogs in the overall picture) in your effort to have your company collectively give the very best service possible. Employees should be encouraged to contribute suggestions on improvement or change in the way you deal with the customer. A sense of participation is a great motivator for strong employee relations.

Listen to your customer’s complaints, demands, and suggestions. Provide a reply that accepts, denies, or "will be taken under consideration." Give a timely, courteous, factual answer, with reasons for your decision (or compromise). Don't try to mislead or brush the customer off thinking the complaint will just be forgotten. Too much of that and the customer will forget you and do business elsewhere. There are, of course, limits to "the customer is always right" theory. There comes a point where you must act in your own best interests and take a stand in your own behalf, but try to do it in a manner which, hopefully, will not jeopardize your reputation.

Cultivate your customer not only before sending the bill but also afterward. Keep in touch to cement your relationship. Remember that "good will" gestures (friendly calls, legitimate incentives/awards, a flexible return-of-goods arrangement, etc.) can go a long way in creating a loyal customer.

In planning for your customer service, consider the following:

  • Your website should reflect company policies
  • Monitor social networks and respond where appropriate
  • Analyze what the competition does.
  • Decide what forms of credit you will offer.
  • Will you need a customer center? An 800 number? A full-time receptionist?
  • How will you handle returns?
  • What about trade-ins?
  • What about warranties, guaranties and service contracts?

Note: Excellent reference material on customer service/relations is available at the links below, and at your public library. Such information is in the 658.812 catalog section.

Web References:

The Customer Service Group provides monthly news, information and training for managers and frontline representatives working in customer service departments call centers and help desks worldwide.

Customer Service Training offers realistic and functional products and services which help businesses improve the way they communicate with customers.

ICSA is a non-profit association led by customer service professionals for customer service professionals. Offers programs that provide members with a forum for sharing knowledge and experience, searching for solutions and networking with other customer service management professional

If you would like to request a Cincinnati SCORE counselor please click here, for a Dayton counselor click here

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Customer Service - SCORE 6.05