Everyone wants to meet customer needs, but few take the time to ask the customer what he wants. And, in this Internet age, that could be a mistake.
Technology and Customer Service
Today, customer service has all sorts of technical aids. But has that made customer service better?
Depends on whom you ask.
Many of us who used to curse at technology—voice mail, for example-now feel cheated if we “waste” a call to a place where the phone just keeps ringing without voice mail to take a message. Mostly, customers just want to be paid attention to. If customers are ignored, it matters little whether they are being ignored by a customer service representative, or by voice mail.
Ensuring Customer Loyalty
One woman has a choice of five supermarkets, all fairly close to her home. And yet, she invariably goes to the one that charges a few cents more. Why? Because she gets noticed at the checkout counter. The clerk remembers her name and comments on whether she as bought the ingredients for lasagna that night. Personalized service will often win out over price.
A Sure Way to Lost Customers . . . And a Sure Way To Win
The more hoops a customer has to jump through to get what he wants, the more likely you are to lose him. If someone in a restaurant wants a chicken salad without mayonnaise, and the waiter is ignorant about the ingredients, and the management is surly about taking the item off of the bill, that customer has had to go through too many hoops to get mayonnaise-free chicken salad and will probably never return.
On the other hand, if a company like Ford offers to replace Firestone Tires, no questions asked, customers feel that Ford is watching out for them, and they may be more likely to buy a Ford next time.One of the ultimate customer service examples is the Ritz Carlton, where all of the training is geared to making employees believe they are “ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.”
Training for Customer Service
You can train someone for customer service, but it helps to select the right employees in the first place. If you choose employees who like people, who smile easily and who are willing to go above and beyond to get the job done, training is made easy.
Anticipating Customer Needs
Want to know what your customers want? Ask them!
It’s shocking how often we don’t. You’d be amazed at some of the decisions that get made in strategic planning without ever asking the customers. Coke found out quickly that they should have asked their customers whether they wanted to replace Coke with “New Coke”—they didn’t and New Coke is one for the archives of poor products and poor product marketing.
If you’ve done your research and priced properly, located properly and are addressing the market, but you’re still not making it. It is quite likely because you forgot to ask your customer what the customer wants.
The Internet and Customer Service
The Internet has had a profound effect on customer service. An entire generation that is used to instant gratification is springing up. The Internet makes it possible for them to get it now . . . or if they can’t get it now, they can get it taken care of and off their minds in a few clicks.
One man tells of how he did all of his Christmas shopping on the Internet in early October. He told them when to deliver presents, selected wrapping paper and never had to think about it again.