The simple definition or description of a customer is that of- ‘the conduit between the employee and any profit potential that an organization may realize’.

The most vital approach for any business is to cultivate a culture that ‘customer service’ is not a noun, it’s a verb hence you need to be doing it, not saying it. And it’s also important to remember that it’s not just a question of whether you deliver customer service, it’s a question of how you do so. The right approach focuses more on delivering the positive experiences you know your customers actually want and less on getting them to hand over more cash.

If you follow this customer centric approach to customer service, it results in loyal customers who know they can depend on your business as a reliable, trustworthy, and competent business that appreciates them, values the fact that they choose to spend their hard-earned cash with you, and knows that it’s a pleasure doing business with them.

Back to our theme question ‘How costly is bad customer service to your business?’ Customer service in any business is the interfacing process between the business’s internal customer and its external customer. The key word in customer service is ATTITUDE. Bad attitude will always cost you big time. Someone rightly puts it this way “A bad attitude is like a flat wheel, you cannot go anywhere until you change it. Henceforth for a business to cultivate a sound customer service culture there may be some investment required.

Excellent customer service need not cost your business anything. After all, how much does it cost to change your attitude? And in the long term, good customer service will actually drive your business costs down while driving the value for your customers up. That’s because when you do things right the first time, you actually save money – and your customer saves time and hassle.

Your business would not exist without customers. And if you have customers, you need to have not just customer service, but superior customer service. Everybody talks about the importance of superior customer service, but few seem to follow through on it. Customers want quality products and services fast and affordable from a reliable service provider. Scarcity of products always creates high demand but scarcity of products and services is now a thing of the past. That means the competitive advantage is now in your ability to keep your customers and build repeat business. With the coming of social networks especially the popular Facebook and Twitter it has become easier for customers to spread their dissatisfaction with your service to the rest of the world.

One concerned customer once said “Make me customer angry and chances are I will post a nasty comment about your shoddy service on my Facebook or Twitter account. In a click of a computer mouse the whole world is able to see that post and make comments about it as well. You cannot afford to have that happening, do you?” Conversely you can maximize on the use of these social platforms to have them talk about your superior service. Good customer service is no longer good enough in this day and age. It has to be superior, it has to be “wow”, and it has to be an unexpected exceptional service. This means doing what you say you will, when you say you will, how you say you will, at the price you promised-plus a little extra tossed in to say “I appreciate your business.”

There are as many research methods or approaches as there are businesses on how you can accomplish this. You can use a scorecard to record, for example; decrease in customer complaints, referrals generated from current customers, increase in repeat business, and changes in response time/turnaround time on orders, increased productivity and less rework on customer projects, and ultimately savings on damage control costs. There are many, many options available. All you need to do is get a superior service customer consultant to assist you or just figure it out on your own — think, be creative! ProfessorTed Levitt from Harvard Business School once said: “If you are not thinking about your customers, you are not thinking.”

Think about it:
a)What is your executive team constantly thinking about?
b)What are you spending the majority of your time talking about?
c)Return on investment or the bottom line?
d)What is it that consumes the bulk of your time?
e)Be customer-focused, think and talk about your customers. Are they happy to do business with you?
f)Are your transactions / processes customer friendly?
g)Are your employees empowered to offer superior customer service?

These and other customer related questions should occupy your thought processes and your actions should reflect it. Superior customer service is dependent on three things:

1.Customer-friendly policies set by the organization’s executives
2.Training offered to the staff and
3.The attitude of the staff about their own organisation as generated by the way their company treats them.

What happens if any of these is out of sync? If executives don’t actually know or see how their policies get executed on the frontline, they’re often shocked to discover the actual results of how the policies get carried out. If people aren’t trained on specifics (not just smile and use people’s names), they don’t know how to build customer loyalty even when they want to. Customer service can become the result of poor employee treatment.

Employees can be spiteful. If they get pushed around and treated unfairly, they “get even” by doing things to drive your other customers away. Ensure your staff has the right attitude to deliver superior service. Give them flexible policies that empower them to serve customers. If your service of late has been bad and your customers are complaining and firing from all cylinders, what can you do? Fix it before bragging about it. The mistake most managers make is to announce their intentions to improve customer service without new systems, policies and training in place, so nothing really changes for the customer. Customers’ high hopes are dashed. Then they become even more hostile and disappointed in the service.

So, the first step is to fix the problem, train the staff to deliver superior service and then announce the change to your customers as you set about proving it to them. Just put your money, time and commitment where your mouth is. That’s often the most difficult part. Everybody believes in superior customer service — in theory.

The real difference develops when people actually commit to carry out their intentions. Here is your opportunity to really make a difference in the kind of customer service your company provides. In conclusion like I highlighted before; a customer is the conduit between the employee and any profit potential that an organization may realize. It is now widely accepted that profitable customer experiences are no longer transaction based, but rather relationship based. For an organization to maximize the Service-Profit chain strategy, they must not only concentrate on employee satisfaction, but they must also become “customer-centric.” Being truly customer-centric requires that everyone in the organization be aligned to have contact, or the opportunity to affect customers. Make sure your staff actually commit to carrying out not just good, but superior customer service. The customers deserve it; enjoy your service till next article when we share again on Customer Service “remember your customers are the conduit they are the ones who pay the salaries”.

Mukandiwa has emerged as an outstanding non-fiction business author on Customer Service in Africa. This article is a review of his new book on customer service entitled ‘Customer and Employee Satisfaction’ .Copies of books by Benson Mukandiwa are now available on sale at premier online stores such as Amazon, Books on Demand BOD and other online bookstores. Recommended reading for Academic, Professional and business institutes of higher learning, academic libraries and business entrepreneurs who are seeking practical solutions and approaches to business management.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR : Benson Mukandiwa is a certified Customer Service Strategist & training consultant, sales executive / professional, internationally published author, researcher, an erudite scholar. Highly motivational trained Interaction leader by British Council and Certified Champion Coach by Success Motivation International (SMI)-USA.
Mukandiwa currently serves as Business Development Executive (Southern Region) at the Chartered Institute of Customer Relationship Management Africa (CICRMA). Benson is happily married to Martha the couple is blessed with two sons King Ethan (7) and King Edric (4). His family is based in the Metropolitan City of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

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