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Just whose job is customer service anyway? Most companies have a Customer Service Department that handles questions and complaints from customers. These employees are usually individuals who are skilled at handling customer complaints and knowledgeable in how to best answer questions. These are typically people who have ‘a way with people’. They are empathetic, good listeners and excellent problem solvers. The best customer service people have a calm demeanor, are likeable and genuinely care about the people they are helping.
So, are those the only people who are responsible for customer service? In today’s business landscape that reeks of service ranging from mediocre to downright lousy, creating and reinforcing a service-centric culture is an excellent way to differentiate a company from its competitors. But it requires that every member of the team adhere to that customer-centric focus. It means customer service becomes everyone’s job. Just what does that look like?
Aspiring to Have the Best Customer Service
Some CEOs may aspire to grow their organization into the biggest in their industry. Other CEOs may dream about growing their company into the most profitable in the area. Still others may aim to build a company that is the best place to work in the world. But to achieve all of those goals, a CEO would do well to adopt an action plan that focuses on creating a company that offers the best customer service. That’s because companies with the best customer service will have the happiest staff which will produce the happiest customers which will in turn lead to increased profitability.
Does Customer Service affect Profitability?
According to John Goodman, Vice Chairman of Customer Care Measurement & Consulting, “not even 25% of customers bring their service issues forward because it’s often just too much hassle. Many of them believe companies won’t care and/or won’t fix the problem to their satisfaction, even if they did receive their complaint.” This indicates that there are many more dissatisfied customers than those that the “customer service department” sees. Dissatisfied customers are unlikely to be repeat customers or refer others.
Indeed, research by the Institute of Customer Service indicated that the customer service experience is one of the biggest influencing factors on a business’ balance sheet. The report showed that 58% of people would stop buying from a company as a direct result of poor customer service and 70% would warn others not to use the company if they had a bad experience. Conversely, 63% would use the same company again thanks to a good experience and 69% would make a recommendation to others. The report’s conclusion is that customer experience has a real and tangible effect on purchases, directly influencing the bottom line.
How to Adopt a Customer-Centric Philosophy?
Leaders of companies in which there is a high demand for the product(s) or service(s) — and there is little or no competition — may not think customer service is important. The problem is that no company can hold on to that blue ocean position for very long. Eventually, competitors arrive and soon it becomes highly competitive. For example, the foundation for the modern car was created in 1886 by German inventor Karl Benz. For a time, Benz had virtually no competition. Cars did not become widely available until the early 20th century. But then Henry Ford innovated mass-production techniques that became standard and were adopted by General Motors and Chrysler. Competition soared. The same was true with the invention of the first commercial ice-making machine created by James Harrison in 1854. However, it wasn’t until 1927 that General Electric created the first widespread “Monitor-Top” refrigerator which helped to rev up industrial processes and became an industry itself. Thereafter, competition soared.
This has been true of virtually every new innovation. Computers. Cell phones. Search Engines. Cameras. It is also true of every service. Once upon a time, private banking was a unique service. Today, every bank has a private banking division. Most industries, products and services have a multitude of players. Within each, competitors vie for one another’s customers.
In a red ocean where competition abounds, a company must have a competitive edge to stay one or more steps ahead of the pack. And in industries where price and product are hard to differentiate or where the product is a commodity, customer service is the edge that elevates the exceptional above the rest. Excellent customer service, then, can be an essential component to a company’s viability and long-term sustainability. But every company claims to have great customer service and most do not actually achieve what they claim.
Commitment to Customer Service
In companies that do make customer service its cornerstone, this duty belongs to every employee, from the janitor to CEO. That’s because every employee has customers to satisfy. There are employees who deal with external customers directly, such as sales staff, cashiers, etc. Then there are many employees who deal with internal customers, such as IT, the accounting department, HR, etc. But whether internal or external, every employee deals with customers of one type or another. Therefore, a commitment to excellence in customer service cannot be relegated just to those with customer service in their title. It is the responsibility and duty of each employee and a viewpoint that must be embraced by every member of the team. Every employee is part of the service chain who either serves the customer directly or indirectly.
Personal Responsibility for Excellent Customer Service
So how does a company get all of its staff committed to excellent customer service? Here are some tips to help in the pursuit of that goal.
- Hire for attitude, compassion and people skills. Those are traits that can be enhanced but cannot be taught or changed.
- Put the company’s customer service goals in writing. Memorializing and communicating those goals ensures everyone is on the same page. The goals could be as simple as “Find ways to say yes” and “Make the client feel satisfied”.
- Identify how the company will measure its success in delivering excellent customer service. That which cannot be measured cannot be achieved.
- Train employees to provide excellent customer service by providing programs aimed at learning how to make customers into ravings fans. Relevant and ongoing training from inception goes a long way in developing powerful customer service skills that benefit all stakeholders.
- Treat employees the way that the company wants employees to treat customers. Excellent customer service has a trickle-down effect.
- Create reward programs and incentives that catch, recognize and reward positive customer service behaviors.
- Deal directly with employees that demonstrate negative behaviors toward customers. Ignoring such behavior only encourages others to copy it.
- Ensure that vendors who also interact with customers have the same understanding of the value and importance to excellent customer service and provide them with training, if necessary.
- Demonstrate how much the organization values customer service at every level from the top down.
The quality of customer service at every level and in every interaction makes a significant difference in adding or diminishing the value of a company. Quality customer service ultimately has a positive influence on the bottom-line.
Quote of the Week
“Customer Service is just a day-in day-out, ongoing, never-ending, unremitting, persevering, compassionate type of activity.” Leon Gorman
 September 27, 2014, By: Jason Boies, 3 Ways Customer Service will Enhance Your Bottom Line, SalesForce Voice, Forbes BrandVoice, https://www.forbes.com/sites/salesforce/2014/09/27/customer-service-bottom-line/#4a723f5162b9
 2014, Are you being engaged? Employee engagement and its influence on customer satisfaction and buying behavior, The Institute of Customer Service, https://www.instituteofcustomerservice.com/research-insight/research-library/are-you-being-engaged-2014
 November 25, 2016, By: Alekhya Sai Punnamaraju, 35 Inventions that Changed the World, Innovation, Inventions and Machines, Interesting Engineering, https://interestingengineering.com/35-inventions-that-changed-the-world
 April 30, 2017, By: Mary Bellis, The History of the Refrigerator and Freezer, ThoughtCo, https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-refrigerator-and-freezers-4072564
 By: Chris MacKechnie, How do I Motivate Employees to Have Good Customer Service Skills?, Chron,
© 2018, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.