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Top tips to give your business a customer service edge

Chris Tyrrell

With the economy still as unpredictable as ever, and with major organisations going into administration every week, good customer service is more important now than ever for companies not only to survive, but also thrive.

With the business scene as competitive as ever, there is a number of top tips that businesses can use to achieve customer service excellence. Here are our top tips:

Core Values

* When companies identify, agree and embed clear core values, staff start pulling together to achieve better delivery of all aspects of the business, including customer service. Staff and where possible, customers should be involved in agreeing the values.

Broad statements

* Every customer would like a personalised, customised service, whereas the most cost-effective service delivery is ‘one size fits all’. Excellent customer satisfaction should be achieved when the provider strikes the right balance between the two.

* No organisation can provide excellent customer service unless everybody, whatever their function and whatever their place in the hierarchy, recognises they have customers, be they external – or internal.

* No organisation really likes complaints – but they provide unsolicited customer feedback.

* The organisation can learn from such feedback and improve its service delivery. By publishing the actions and service improvements it has taken as a result of complaints and comments, it can demonstrate it is a ‘listening and learning’ organisation, and welcomes customer feedback.

* The received wisdom that ‘customers will pass good customer service on to half a dozen people, while bad customer service gets spread much more widely’, can be turned on its head. A swift, effective resolution of a complaint can transform the customer’s perception.

* It is good practice to empower frontline staff to deal with customer service issues when they arise, if they can – but, if they do, it is important to capture those expressions of dissatisfaction, or ‘informal complaints’ in order to spot any emerging issues that could lead to formal complaints.

* It is not good practice for an organisation to set a cap on the number of complaints that should be received – it sends the wrong message to staff, who may feel they are encouraged to ignore a complaint.

* Another good practice is to encourage customers to submit complaints through all the access channels available, while offering the support of frontline staff to assist them. Channel shift to online service provision, support, information and payment.

* Assuming you have done your customer segmentation, then make sure what the preferred access channel of each segment is – and if it includes customers who cannot, or prefer not to, use online services, then make sure there is a viable alternative for them.

* Use your website to demonstrate your transparency as an organisation by publishing your: Core business standards and your performance against them. Your standards for the timeliness and quality of response to customer contact, and your performance against them. An explanation of any dips in performance, together with any remedial or preventive action you are taking. Action you are taking in response to customer satisfaction surveys, comment cards, and complaints.