Customer Service Strategy

    By Patricia Lotich | Small Business

    Organizations that have exceptional service cultures don't happen by accident. They are the result of a defined customer service strategy. Customer service practices should be incorporated into business goals that impact corporate objectives. This is accomplished by having a defined customer service strategy.

    A customer service strategy consists of:

    A Vision for Customer Service
    Communicating the customer service vision is an important first step in service strategy. Employees need to understand their role in meeting the needs of customers and how their work contributes to the vision. It is easy to recognize businesses that are strong in service and those that aren't. Service training is the key to a great customer service experience.

    Assessing Customer Needs
    It is important to find out what the customer needs and expects. There are several approaches to soliciting customer feedback. It can be done by using customer comment cards, satisfaction surveys or focus groups. Each method can be used to acquire feedback that can then be used to develop a plan that strives to exceed customer expectations.

    Customer expectations change at a rapid pace and many organizations fall short when they THINK they know what the customer wants without asking them. Unfortunately, some businesses waste a lot of time and money developing products and services that don't meet customer expectations. Successful organizations have learned to find out what the customer wants and to develop products and services that meet those expectations. It is also important to remember that customer expectations are a moving target and what a customer wants today could be very different tomorrow.

    Hiring for Service
    Successful organizations have figured out how to hire service-oriented employees. This is done by screening potential candidates that have a natural tendency for service. Technical skills can be taught but personality and attitude cannot. Therefore, not every employee should be interacting with customers.

    Organizational Goals for Customer Service
    Customer satisfaction should be measured against identified customer needs. There should be measurable customer satisfaction goals, and employees should be aware of those goals so they can help the organization achieve its service objective.

    Customer Service Training
    Every business should develop customized employee training that expresses the organization's approach to service. This should be practical teaching that demonstrates how the employee is expected to respond in all service interactions. This would include how to answer the telephone, respond to complaints, fulfill a customer need or provide a basic service recovery. Much of this can be spelled out with defined customer service standards that dictate basic employee behavior.

    Employee Accountability
    Employees should be held accountable for the organization's customer satisfaction goals. Achieving these goals should be a cultural norm that is incorporated into the performance management process. It is imperative that all employees understand the part they play and the responsibility they have for helping to achieve the organization's overall customer satisfaction goals.

    Rewarding Good Service
    Strong service behaviors are reinforced through a defined reward and recognition system. This ensures that employees receive positive feedback when they exhibit the desired customer service behaviors.

    Any successful organization understands the importance of a strong service culture. This is accomplished by creating systems and processes that help to identify who the customers are and what the customers want, and developing strategies to achieve those expectations.

    Patricia Lotich (twitter: @patricialotich) is a small business coach and founder of The Thriving Small Business.

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