Saturday, April 19, 2008

Customer Service and Problems as Differentiator

Once I ran a Service Division which included a customer service function. Initially, we received so many customer calls at peak volume that we’d have long hold times. Clearly, -not good service. The reasons customers called had to do with poor performance in other departments within the Service Division. Those problems I tackled first. At the same time we provided extensive training to the customer service representative to give them expertise in solving customer problems, and we empowered them to make decisions. As we resolved the service issues, the call volume dropped and our quality of customer service skyrocketed.

The business was a commodity service and customers could fairly easily switch between providers. Pricing was generally regarded as the only competitive advantage and we were very competitively priced. However, our customer service surveys were indicating a growing sense of loyalty due to our speed of answer and the friendliness and expertise in handling any problems customers had. We had a differentiator! But if our other services were flawless, the customer would not call us। The problem we faced was how do you delight customers if the only way to do it is to have them call us to resolve a problem?

We figured this out and our great customer service gradually drove loyalty, and an increase in market share.

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