Added by on 2012-09-28

What exactly is Customer Service? If you had to allocate it as a separate expense in your financials, would you include it under Marketing, perhaps Advertising or even as an item in your Trading Account under Cost of Goods?

This question could be bunched alongside the old favourite of “What is the difference between Marketing and Advertising?”

Fortunately, for this discussion the answer is not important. The facts are that customers are essential to any business and whatever it takes to get those customers has to be done.

More importantly, once you’ve got them, the idea is to keep them and serving them well will certainly play a major part of your Customer Retention Policy. You would think this would be “self-evident” but how many stores and businesses have you entered and encountered lousy customer service, and didn’t go back?!

Service equals profit

Customer-focused companies have been shown to be more profitable and have longer term outlooks. In fact, a department store chain in the United States has developed customer service into big business.

Its products are generally much more expensive than its nearest competitors but customers continue to shop there regardless of the price. Customers are essentially paying for the service and don’t mind, because it makes the shopping experience much more pleasurable.

But now, customer service is changing again. For the new century, a new term has been coined…Customer Relationship Management or CRM.

What a great idea – or is it? CRM can become enormously expensive, and one day the penny will drop and businesses will realise that customers just don’t want what is being offered. Customers are inclined to get the feeling that it favours the company and has no value for them.

Robert Frost commented “Two roads diverged into the woods, and I took the road less travelled.” This might just be the Holy Grail of Customer Service.

You can “Dare to be Different.” You can use words like “Free”, even thought free has been flogged to death or you can be “Genuine”, “Committed”, live, breathe and hope to die sincere in everything you say or do.

Let the customer make the rules

Philosophically, as a business-in any business-you should have the customer make the rules; you shouldn’t make the rules. As long as you have rules that you’re going to force your customer to abide by – “That’s the way we do things and if you don’t do it that way, then we’re not going to do business with you” – then you’re going to have problems.

Examples would be a store that has no return policy or a service repair company that won’t say when they’re going to arrive, forcing a customer to sit home all day. If you want to avoid challenges, the best preventative maintenance is to find out what your customers want and deliver it exactly and precisely. Don’t make the customers follow your rules; you follow their rules.

Customers have been over-vaccinated with commercial messages almost to the point of immunity. In this day and age, technology has allowed more intrusion into people’s lives and they can spot lip service from a mile away.

We will continue to do this whenever we come across something that might help. People respond to challenges, and for the good of your business, in this issue we have decided to challenge you to get out there, put some original thought into how your circumstances and your particular business can best serve your customers in a genuine and concerned way.

Don’t set impossible goals. It must be sustainable and embraceable and hopefully you’ll find it not only emotionally rewarding, but financially as well.

Go to it!

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