Customer service is an integral part of every organization. Deals can be won or lost through the communication process. Honest communication, with the customer’s best interests always at the forefront—from the initial contact of the pre- sale to the support after the sale—is the cornerstone of good business practice.
With the technology we have today, customer service comes in many forms—face-to-face, phone, e-mail, Skype, the web, etc. And customer service isn’t limited to a call center or customer service personnel—any employee who interacts with a customer is a customer-service representative. It is ideal for account executives or project personnel to meet with customers face to face throughout the year, with frequency determined by customer preferences. It is important to stay connected on a regular basis to make sure you understand their needs, desires, and concerns (which can shift quickly, depending on the project or the market). Whether it is daily, weekly, or monthly dialogue, everyone needs to stay in the loop.
Excellent customer service is essential for:
- Winning new customers
- Bringing in return business from existing customers
- Developing referrals from current customers
- Building an outstanding reputation and brand
Customer service is typically the first point of contact for a new or existing customer—this is where the all-important first impression is made. As the saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. That first impression by customers is influenced by the honesty, interest, authenticity, quick response, and knowledge they experience in that first interaction.
The strength of a customer-service culture is especially tested when issues arise that need to be resolved—this is where authenticity and quick problem-solving/resolution are critical. These are also the situations that greatly build trust. Customers want to work with vendors who understand and value their business and customers as their own. Also, when issues arise, it is a great opportunity to double-check systems and processes and make any internal adjustments to improve operations and efficiency—again, something customers appreciate.
Outstanding customer service is the best way to create trust with the client. People feel connected to those they trust and find “likable.” That means they are willing to communicate at a deeper level and share more information, which can be valuable in improving the vendor-customer experience. Trust is established by the efficient execution of requested tasks, both large and small. Trust is eroded, or seriously damaged, by a lack of urgency, or an inability or unwillingness to deliver on commitments.
Flexibility is also essential—making the effort to move orders up, push orders out, or change order quantities. It can also be accommodating their requests for information, or scheduling visits and audits. The purpose of customer service is to add value to the customer experience, which means going out of you way to fulfill a request, instead of trying to come up with reasons why you can’t.
As transformation occurs in technology, service and support must change as well. Emerging technologies, new deployment strategies, and the role of service and support will continue to evolve. Customers know more and will be expecting more. People skills are just as important as technical skills—always look for the best ways to help your customers. Don’t make promises you cannot keep. Measure your service standards regularly. Get good feedback. Encourage suggestions for improvement from both customers and employees.
Forward-thinking companies will create an experience the customer will value. A culture of customer service builds trust that leads to deeper client/vendor relationships and a more efficient, productive manufacturing process.