Tuesday, March 27, 2007

What is Customer Service?

After some of my colleagues and friends read my last post, they thought that I was taking revenge on the service centers that did not give good service. Although that did cross my mind, punishing the service centers that were not customer-focused was not my intention.

My intent was to describe the activities and attitudes that demonstrate good customer service. At the Franklin Pontiac Service Center, good customer relations permeated through every action and interaction that the employees had with the customers. The other two service centers could really learn from the way Franklin Pontiac treats its customers.

What I also failed to do in my post was to indicate that quality customer service hinges on quality products (and services); exemplary customer service is more than interacting and relating to the customers. If Franklin Pontiac was nice, but did not portray competence, and was not able to the job (or fix the problem), then my only comment would have been: "They are nice." Being friendly will take a product and an organization only so far.

Being dedicated to providing customer service also requires the organization to excel in its services and products. The organization has to have substance--quality customer service and quality products. An organization cannot sustain good customer service without providing quality products.

Good customer service also means continuous improvement where employees are "looking for ways to improve quality and value". Joel Spolsky describes "Seven steps to remarkable customer service". His first step of solving customer problems includes a two-pronged approach: 1) solve the immediate problem and 2) fix the problem so it is not a problem for the next customer. This requires all employees think beyond their own specific job duties. Employees should think how their actions affect customers and others within the organization.

Of course, businesses that produce quality products, but are not customer-focused, can survive for awhile. After awhile, though, I lose confidence in their ability to produce quality products, and I simply lose interest in doing business with them. Businesses that indeed know that "The customer is our reason for being here" are the ones that will get my repeat business.

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