Customer Service Defined

Customer service is the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase.

According to Turban et al. (2002), “Customer service is a series of activities designed to enhance the level of customer satisfaction – that is, the feeling that a product or service has met the customer expectation."

Its importance varies by product, industry and customer; defective or broken merchandise can be exchanged, often only with a receipt and within a specified time frame. Retail stores will often have a desk or counter devoted to dealing with returns, exchanges and complaints, or will perform related functions at the point of sale.

Customer service may be provided by a person (e.g., sales and service representative), or by automated means called self-service. Examples of self service are Internet sites. The experience a customer has of a product also affects the total service experience, but this is more of a product direct feature than what is included in the definition of customer service.

Customer service is normally an integral part of a company’s customer value proposition. From the point of view of an overall sales process engineering effort, customer service plays an important role in an organization's ability to generate income and revenue. From that perspective, a customer service program should be included as part of an overall approach to systematic improvement.

Some have argued that the quality and level of customer service has decreased in recent years, and that this can be attributed to a lack of support or understanding at the executive and middle management levels of a corporation and/or a customer service policy. Others, like CEO Michael G. Faith (Mike Faith), believe that providing a high level of customer service, which he refers to as Customer Love, is the only way to grow your business in these times. Faith recently spoke at the Inc. Growco Conference on the subject of using customer service to grow your business.

Instant feedback

Recently, many organizations have implemented feedback loops that allow them to capture feedback at the point of experience. For example, National Express, one of the UK's leading travel companies invites passengers to send text messages whilst riding the bus. This has been shown to be useful as it allows companies to improve their customer service before the customer defects, thus making it far more likely that the customer will return next time.

Setting the right KPIs

A challenge working with Customer Service is to ensure that you have focused your attention on the right key areas, measured by the right Key Performance Indicator. There is no challenge to come up with a lot of meaningful KPIs, but the challenge is to select a few which reflects your overall strategy. In addition to reflecting your strategy it should also enable staff to limit their focus to the areas that really matters. The focus must be of those KPIs, which will deliver the most value to the overall objective, e.g. Cost saving, service improving etc. It must also be done in such a way that staff sincerely believe that they can make a difference with the effort.


Currently, the standards regarding this topic are not many. However ISO and The International Customer Service Institute (TICSI) have published a several standards which are listed as follows:

ISO 9004:2000 which is about performance improvements

ISO 10001:2007 which guidelines the code of conduct on customer services

ISO 10002:2004 which addresses the quality management on handling of customer complaints

ISO 10003:2007 which is about dispute resolution

The International Customer Service Standard (TICSS)

In addition to the above, there is a standard of service management for Information Technology, which is ISO/IEC 20000:2005, which divides the first part for specifications, and the second part for the code of practice.


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