Customer Service v. Customer Loyalty
What’s the difference between Customer Service and Customer Loyalty? Can you achieve one without the other? Are these two terms intertwined so much that they are synonymous? Are you measuring one or both of these terms to determine how well your business is performing? These are just some examples of the questions we often hear from clients. We will address these questions and a few others to help clarify the definitions and reasons each are important to your business in the next two blogs. Today, we focus on Customer Service.
Customer service is defined many different ways. Here are some common definitions of customer service in use today:
“Customer service is the ability to provide a service or product in the way that it has been promised.”
“Customer service is about treating others as you would like to be treated yourself.”
“Customer service is an organization’s ability to supply their customers’ wants and needs.”
“Customer Service is a phrase that is used to describe the process of taking care of our customers in a positive manner.”
“Customer Service is any contact between a customer and a company, that causes a negative or positive perception by a customer.”
“Customer service is a process for providing competitive advantage and adding benefits in order to maximize the total value to the customer.”
“Customer Service is the commitment to providing value added services to external and internal customers, including attitude knowledge, technical support and quality of service in a timely manner.”
“Customer service is a proactive attitude that can be summed up as: I care and I can do.”
A Definition to Guide Customer Service Today
If you are a contact center, a high-tech company, a company in a traditional industry, a non-profit, a manufacturer, a government agency, or in the hospitality industry, you can create passionate customer loyalty using the following definition:
“Excellent customer service is the process by which your organization delivers its services or products in a way that allows the customer to access them in the most efficient, fair, cost effective, and humanly satisfying and pleasurable manner possible.”
How would you define good customer service? Try to define it. It’s not as easy as you’d think.
So, we have to define customer service and develop a model that will work for your organization. We can’t do what we can’t describe. That’s true in breaking a sports record or building a bridge.
Customer service has often been done badly because it’s been defined badly. Business needs a customer service definition and model upon which you can build a strategy for your organization and industry.
Let’s see if you agree. Here’s a bad definition, a professional customer service consultant, defines good customer service as “Exceeding the customer’s expectations.”
This definition doesn’t tell you much of anything, and unfortunately, it’s what you often get in customer service seminars and publications. Here are two illustrations that tell you “exceeding customer’s expectations” can actually lead you astray.
Case Number One: If I go to a McDonald’s, then I don’t want you to exceed my expectations—quite the contrary. I’m looking for an experience that I can rely on. It may be many fat grams and exactly the same fries to someone else, but to me knowing that I’m getting McDonald’s fries is the experience I seek. The last thing I want is for McDonald’s to “exceed my expectations” by changing the fries.
Case Number Two: I went into a large store recently and quite by accident came upon a refrigerator with a plasma TV in the door of the fridge. I must say the TV had a really good picture. This fridge certainly “exceeded my expectations,” because I thought it was weird. Perhaps it could be a good dieting tool. I’m standing in front of the refrigerator and want to make myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Suddenly I change my mind, “No, I think I’ll just stand here and watch American Idol.”
A Definition of Customer Service and a Model that Will Work for You
Here is our customer service definition again that you can use invariably to set up the customer service model for your organization.
Excellent customer service is the process by which your organization delivers its services or products in a way that allows the customer to access them in the most efficient, fair, cost effective, and humanly satisfying and pleasurable manner possible.
Here is the first point to remember: Customer service is a process, not a set of actions that might include greeting the customer, smiling, asking if you can help, etc.
Customer service is about how your organization delivers its product or service. The part that sales people play in the customer service process is taking the customer through the process in order for him or her to receive the product they walked in the door, called, or clicked to acquire.
The process is efficient. Product information is immediately available. It is complete and correct. The sales person can refer the buyer to the website, spec sheet, literature, ingredients—or whatever other information is relevant.
The features and benefits are presented convincingly, but honestly and with a personalized approach. The terms of the purchase are clear. The payment process takes place in the least amount of time possible. If the product requires manufacturing or modification, accurate estimates are given about the time required. If the product is immediately available, there is virtually no lag time in taking possession of the product or experiencing the benefits of the service.
The process is fair. The customer service process must be transparent. If an organization can practice full disclosure in an obvious way in their product information and their contracts, they are on the way to creating customer loyalty. If the customer experiences your organization as one where they were never surprised and never felt deceived, the organization will create a competitive edge in a world where there is precious little confidence in the customer service process.
The product or service is cost-efficient. The product or is competitively priced, competitive pricing is the only way to survive in the marketplace.
Products should not seem to look like better quality than they really are. Say you take home a DVR player for a present to one of your children that looks chrome plated and is really cool. In a couple of weeks you discover the “chrome” is really cheap plastic and it has peeled, looking like fury animal that’s shedding. You’re really steamed because of this product. It they had just used sturdy gray plastic that stayed on you would not feel ripped off. Coffee pots and blenders often look just like durable appliances, and they expire in six months. I’d rather know I’m getting a throwaway product because it looks like one. Don’t create expectations that will be disappointed.
Customer service is a sellable commodity, but most companies are not cashing in on it. You can sell customer service. Companies are so focused on sales and cost cutting that they can’t see service as a commodity when it’s right in front of them. That’s actually what a service contract is all about.
The product should last through the first year of the standard limited warranty. If it doesn’t, if you sell them a service contact for the first 12 months, then you’re not selling service, you’re selling protection—protection against your inferior product.
If, however, you assure that your product is highly unlikely to develop problems during the first year, you’ll gain significant customer loyalty and also have a consumer that will be positive toward buying an extended customer warranty beyond the first 12 months.
Customer service must be delivered in the most humanly satisfying manner and pleasurable possible.
Here’s where the fun comes in after you’ve done the hard stuff.
In the human pantheon of pleasures, the act of spending is close to eating and sex in its importance, and for some people, it’s a lot more important than either of the other two.
The act of buying or acquiring is one of the strongest human emotions. I buy Starbucks coffee when I don’t even want coffee. Why? Because I enjoy the act of buying. If I feel sad, it always makes me feel good to go out and buy some nice new clothes. As the CEO of my company, what more powerful feeling could I experience than buying another company or a huge piece of equipment? It’s a real trip to spend a few million dollars. Why do department heads want a bigger budget? It’s so they can spend! In spending they feel useful and powerful.
So, yes, romancing the customer continues to be important in order to make to make the act of buying pleasurable at every level of sale. Enhancing the pleasure on the small-ticket item may be a great checkout system with a checker who is friendly. At the big-ticket level it may be a resort encounter with customers and sales people at an exotic location.
You have to sell more than the “sizzle.” Store interiors that look a movie set from Star Wars don’t compensate for an inferior product mix. Wal-Mart success certainly is a testimony to this fact. Sales people nicely dressed and smiling big will create a negative reaction if the sales system doesn’t work efficiently.
Yet the pleasure of the buying experience in many cases is as an important as the product itself. Creativity in creating the buying experience is a key component or organizations today.
Building a Customer Service Model for Your Organization
This customer service definition can build a customer strategy with it for a high tech company, a fast food restaurant, an IRS office, a mortuary or a theme park. You can build a model that will develop customer loyalty and will not bankrupt your organization.
Any organization can have good customer service. You don’t have to have genius employees to achieve customer service. Whether your organization is selling a half-million dollar piece of equipment, a public sector government service, or a meal at a restaurant, the model works. All it requires is that you go through your process from beginning to end and create a repeatable formula that allows the sales/service person to guide the customer through the process. Our next blog will address Customer Loyalty.
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