WHAT IS CUSTOMER CARE?
Customer care involves putting systems in place to maximize your customers’ satisfaction with your business. It should be a prime consideration for every business – your sales and profitability
depends on keeping your customers happy.
Customer care is more directly important in some roles than others. For receptionists, sales staff and other employees in customer-facing roles, customer care should be a core element of their job description and training, and a core criterion when you’re recruiting.
But don’t neglect the importance of customer care in other areas of your business. For instance, your warehousing and dispatch departments may have minimal contact with your customers – but their performance when fulfilling orders has a major impact on customers’ satisfaction with your business.
A huge range of factors can contribute to customer satisfaction, but your customers – both consumers and other businesses – are likely to take into account:
- How well your product or service matches customer needs
- The value for money you offer
- Your efficiency and reliability in fulfilling orders
- The professionalism, friendliness and expertise of your employees
- How well you keep your customers informed
- The after-sales service you provide
Customer service, especially in the shape of a call-centre – is to customers one of the most visible and significant aspects of organizational performance.
To many organizations however customer service is one of the most challenging and neglected areas of management, including those with modern call-centres.
For customers the quality of customer service determines whether to buy, and particularly whether to remain a customer.
Think for a moment how you yourself behave as a customer. You can perhaps think of an occasion when poor customer service or an unhappy exchange with a call-centre has driven you to leave a supplier, even if the quality and value of the product or service itself is broadly satisfactory.
The significance of customer service eludes many senior executives, let alone the methods of establishing and managing customer service standards and quality. Our own experiences as customers demonstrate all the time that many large organizations fail particularly to empower customer-facing and call-centre staff, and also fail to design policies and systems to empower customer-facing staff and enable effective customer service. Often these are defensive strategies because staff are not trusted, and because competition is feared, or because simply the policymakers and systems-designers are too far removed from customers and their customer service expectations.
Pricing strategy also plays a part on customer service – especially strategies which effectively discriminate against existing customers in favour of new customers, which in certain situations borders on the unethical, never mind being stupid in a customer service context.
This is strange since any reasonable measure or criteria – in any market or industry – it costs far more to gain new customers than to retain existing customers. Neglecting, constraining or failing to optimise customer services capabilities is waste of great opportunities.
Instead many organizations and their leaders are habitually fixated on sales, marketing, advertising and promotion – desperately striving to attract new customers – while paying scant regard to the many customers that are leaving, just for the want of some simple effective customer service and care. We see this particularly in highly competitive and profitable sectors such as communications and financial services, where new customers are commonly extended better terms and attention than existing customers. No wonder customer turnover (‘churn’) in these industries can reach levels exceeding 25%. Leaders and spokespeople will blame the
competitive market, and the fickleness of customers, but ultimately when a customer leaves a supplier it’s because they are unhappy about the service they are receiving – otherwise why leave?