Who Are the Best of the Best? (1,161 words)
Customer service can make or break a company. What's the old saying, "Once bitten, twice shy"? Many customers simply won't give you a second chance if you screw up an order or don't treat them right in the first place. Provide them with the tender loving care they think they deserve, or they'll simply take their business elsewhere.
That's the bad news. The good news is that the reverse is also true in many cases. Treat your customers well, and you'll have their business for life.
So what does it mean to take good care of customers in the high-tech high-touch environment in which we do business in 2000? "Today, caring for customers does not simply entail efficient service with a smile—it means giving customers what they want, however they want it," says Millie Park, director, Customer Care Solutions for DiaLogos Inc. In addition, she adds, "It means knowing them well and anticipating their needs."
According to Park, "Many companies in both the online and off-line world take good care of their customers from a service aspect." However, she says that few companies handle customer care effectively across all available channels and touchpoints, including direct mail, Web, telephone, e-mail, interactive voice response, etc. In the online world, for instance, she says e-tailers and airlines have been leaders in providing a high level of service and differentiated treatment, but they have a long road ahead. In these industries, products and pricing are no longer a point of differentiation that can be used as a competitive advantage.
"They've recognized that building customer loyalty is key to sustaining their growth," says Park. Customers are demanding personalized care whenever and however they choose. Those companies that offer superior customer care will be rewarded with customer loyalty, increased business and referrals."
And one more important point before you run out to beef up your company's own customer service policies and programs. Customer service programs created merely as part of a marketing strategy to make you "look good" don't cut it, asserts Liz Kislik, a telemarketing consultant. You have to really mean it and follow through in terms of providing great service—whether it be in the form of helpful teleservices reps, easy returns or a great loyalty program.