The Continuum of Customer Service

September 16th, 2013 by Richard Murdock

My wife is in the job market and has been looking at some Account Management opportunities. She’s excited to be looking for new opportunities but somewhat concerned about the focus of some positions she’s seen so far. She feels that some are focused on the bottom line “numbers game” a bit too much. Since I’m in a Customer Service oriented position as well, this conversation led to an interesting discussion about something I called the “Continuum of Customer Service” at the time. This idea has developed gradually, especially while working with the talented individuals over here are LoopFuse, who have taught me quite a bit over the years. Basically it’s the concept that, no matter what you do, customer service reigns. Whether you are trying to find new customers, close a deal, or keep them within the fold, a good product is not the end of the customer experience. How the customer perceives your company and the interactions they have with you will go a long way in determining if they will stick with you for the long term.

Responding to wants/desires

The customer acquisition process begins before people have even heard of you. There is a want or desire out there that needs to be filled and you’ve done the research and feel you can meet those needs. You have the product that at least comes close to meeting their requirements but that’s not enough. You will, of course, employ the traditional and newer methods of marketing to get your message out there but there is something very important to keep in mind while broadcasting your message: first impressions are hard to change. Your reputation in the market place not only depends on product quality, but on the quality of the people who represent it. We’ve all encountered those companies that have sketchy marketing messages. Don’t be that kind of company or that kind of marketer. Make sure your message is clear and that your reputation attracts customers, not repels them.

Offering a product and fulfilling a need

Now that someone has knocked on the door and expressed an interest in your product, it’s time to hand them over to your sales team. Again, how your people interact with your potential customers speaks volumes about your company and its principles. A few years back I was on the wrong end of an overly aggressive car deal. Past car purchasing experiences had been great so I naively assumed that the process would be just as straightforward as it had been previously. Had I done a bit of research before going to that particular dealership, I would have known better. By the time we figured out just how bad the deal was, too much time had passed and we were stuck with the horrible loan and the sub-standard car. It’s been ten years and that dealership still get terrible reviews on their sales process and customer service. Do you think we’ll ever go back?

A sale isn’t a true win if the customer is just going to walk out the door, never to return. Repeat business depends on the positive experience the customer has during the sales process. Make sure your sales team understands this and has customer satisfaction, not monthly sales numbers, as their end focus. Numbers will come when customers are happy with your product and team.

Solving problems and answering questions

We all know that, despite our best efforts to produce a quality product, problems happen after customers come on board. Whether they stick around or abandon ship depends in large part on how the customer service team handles the feedback they receive. Effective customer service teams need to have communication skills that cover the entire spectrum of customer acquisition. Marketing skills are needed to explain the benefits of a product that the customer may not recognize or be using most effectively. Sales skills are needed to promote upgrades or suggest additional products that would enhance their current experience. Finally, resolving issues depends on your ability to effectively diagnose an issue and let your product development team know what concerns your customers have with the current state of your product.

As a customer service representative, you are that bridge of communication between the customer and the company. It’s a difficult balance because you need to have the best interests of both parties in mind. On the one hand you need to make sure that the customer issues are resolved and that feedback is delivered to the team. On the other hand you want to make sure your company message is clear and any resolutions, or lack thereof, get communicated effectively to the customer. Even if a customer has some issues with your product or service, whether or not they stick with your company depends on how responsive you are to their needs and how you treat them during that customer support interaction.

Customers come and go during the business process but how they think of you when they are no longer your customer affects how well they will regard your company and your product. Making sure they have had a positive experience throughout the life-cycle of becoming a customer will speak volumes about you – volumes that others read and use to determine if they will also consider you for their needs. So make sure that people get good customer service throughout the process. Cross-train those marketing and sales teams for better listening feedback skills. Get those customer service agents trained in how to market and sell a product. Once the overall level of service goes up you’ll see an increase in happy customers, which will in turn lead to more customers.

Richard Murdock (@shinyranger) is the Senior Manager of Customer Support at LoopFuse. Our goal is to make sure you have the best experience possible with our products.

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