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Customer Service and Its Elements

When an owner or senior manager thinks of customer service,
it is too easy to make the mistake of thinking of it as a department
or a function as opposed to thinking of it as a key responsibility
It is often said that an organization will take on the characteristics
of the leader and, if that’s true as I believe it to be,
then the leader must set a standard and an example of true customer
service.



That being the case, in this, the first of six articles, let’s focus
on several aspects of customer service.
First, how do we measure customer service? There are mathematical
and statistical models to do this, but they are expensive
and esoteric. For our purposes, here are three areas of measurement
of customer service that are common-sensical and easy to
use.



Quality of service to the customer. It doesn’t take a statistician
to know whether or not you’re providing quality service
to your customers. Ask them and ask your employees in
such a way as to generate an honest response, not a foreordained
one in line with what you’d like to hear.



Service must fit/meet needs of the customer. This
is easier said than done because it creates the burden of learning
and understanding those needs. In a later article we’ll look
at some effective ways of doing so.


Service must meet standards established by you for
your company. In many organizations there are the formal
standards and the real world ones. In some situations the formal
ones are the minimum and the real ones exceed those. In
too many organizations the formal standards are the maximum
and the real ones fall far short. In an ideal situation, the formal
and real standards are identical and are very high.
Second, what are the key elements of effective customer service?
Here are eight such elements.



Handle the basics. Focus on “blockingand tackling.” Don’t
get caught up in fancy, acronym laden programs unless you’ve
mastered the basics.



Focus on meeting needs. This implies knowledge of customer
needs. In a future article we’ll see ways to help us determine
those needs and what happens when we don’t know them.


Develop with the customer. It is likely that your biggest
customer today was not your biggest five or 10 years ago. Keep
pace.

Admit mistakes and fix them immediately. The time
from a mistake to its rectification may be linear but the customers
ill feelings increase geometrically.

Everyone is a customer. Although this is not literally true,
you should act as if it were.

Do whatever it takes within the bounds of legality,
morality and good business practices to satisfy and
keep your customer.

Service + Quality = Survival and Success

Strive for constant improvement. No matter how good
you are or think you are, there’s always room for growth. And,
if you don’t improve, your competitor will.



About the Author


L. Douglas Mault is president of the Executive Advisory Institute,
Yakima, Wash.

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