Effective Customer Service Program
How Customer Service Grows Strong Organizations

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After product quality, customer service is probably the most significant factor in delineating your business from another, creating an image that can either break your company or grow it into a strong organization. It is your company's personal signature which plays a role in whether someone buys something from you or your competitor.

Customer service is a catch phrase for how you, the business owner or representative, interact with and treat the people who buy your goods or services. It can be good or bad, but please believe that customer service will be a deciding factor in the outcomes of your business.

By exploring the questions in these two guidelines, you will be able to capitalize on creating a more successful business by providing an outstanding customer service program:

A Reflection of You

How your company interacts with its customers is a direct reflection on you and your company's culture. What messages do you send?

Do the sales people start from the premise of win-win in which the customer gets what he or she wants and the company makes a fair profit? Or is the goal sales at any cost, customer be damned? Do the team members honestly present the product to the customer? Or do they coerce them or scare them into buying something that is not needed? Do the representatives return phone calls and address concerns immediately? Or do they tell the customer the sale is final and there is nothing they can do? Are your employees empowered to be advocates for the customer? Or are their hands tied in trying to be fair to a consumer in an unusual situation?

If you want to project an image of excellent customer service, then demonstrate it in your personal actions, include it in your company's mission and vision statements, and reward that behavior among your employees.

A Reflection of Whom You Hire

Hiring managers and location supervisors, beware which employees you allow to represent you to the public. Really, this means be careful of EVERY employee you hire, because they ALL represent your company to the public, even the janitor or security guard.

Your culture can be as fair and pro-consumer as possible, but will be torpedoed by a substandard employee who does not fit into your operation. For all employees-especially the receptionist-do you know what qualities you are looking for when you list the job opening?

Do you check backgrounds and qualifications of new hires? Do you conduct relevant interviews, asking questions that attempt to have the candidate reveal his or her views on interacting with your precious customers? Is the candidate able to communicate clearly and to follow through on commitments made? Is the employee honest? Does he or she have a good work ethic? Do you have solid internal training for new hires? Do you have mechanisms in place to randomly check the performance of employees with their customers for the purpose of continuous improvement?

If you want to perpetuate a culture of outstanding customer service, then hire the right people to represent your company. Perform due diligence in the hiring stage and constantly train, reinforce and praise examples of the level of customer service you wish to continue. If legal, compensate employees for their expertise in providing great customer service.

While it is true in some instances that, if an identical product is sold at two different stores, most customers will make price the deciding factor of where to purchase the item. However, in general, good customer service will increase overall sales by creating customer loyalty, customer recommendations and product credibility, especially when the product is a service.

This is especially true if your service is more expensive than your competitor. Offering excellent customer support has value and therefore can justify the higher price. Consider why people buy a more expensive computer from one company over another-the quality of their tech support.

In some marketplaces, outstanding customer service is exactly why some people pay more for an item they can get cheaper elsewhere. Think of a four-star resort versus a $32-a-night motel. They both have swimming pools, but the investment is made in the resort because the consumer is expecting to be pampered.

The level of customer service you provide and its quality is an integral part of creating a reputation for your company that will set you apart from others. The image you put forth can be positive or negative. Wise leaders choose strong customer service because they know that it leads to long-term existence and a positive impact on their bottom line.

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