Improving customer service: five good strategies
While most companies understand that strong customer service is vital to market leadership, many are still struggling with customer service issues, according to customer management solutions provider, ClientLogic.
ClientLogic says that over 75% of businesses are failing to meet customer service excellence standards, which will inevitably hurt both sales and customer satisfaction.
The firm has defined what it calls 'the top five' ways for businesses to improve their customer service. And through its work with large companies (such as Sony, Logitech, and National Geographic TV), the firm aims to prove how effective these initiatives can be when properly implemented and executed.
The top five
- Lightning-fast rebate programmes: Get rebate cheques to customers in days, not weeks. With rebates often taking as long as 12 weeks to be processed, the delay leads to more enquiry calls, which costs the company more money in the long run, and negatively impacts customer satisfaction and brand perception.
- Continuity programmes: They're not just for music and book clubs any more. Just as shoppers' interests are distinctive, so are their buying patterns. Continuity programmes build upon the concept of recurring fulfilment. They offer opportunities to sell a broader range of replenishable products (collectibles, personal care products, or even office supplies, for example). Programmes that let customers make changes to their selections along the way are especially effective.
- Direct-to-store fulfilment: Put the right merchandise in the right stores at the right time. Out-of-stock merchandise can multiply lost sales, while over-stocking leads to expensive promotions and markdowns. Technology-based fulfilment and supply chain management (SCM) applications let retailers and manufacturers manage the demand and supply, at both warehouse and store levels.
- Integrate communication channels: Customers should never have to repeat their question, no matter how they contact you. The traditional storefront, post, telephone, e-mail, web sites, online self-help, chat facilities... Customers can choose one or many channels to communicate with you, for asking questions, receiving information, and purchasing products. Given these multi-channel options, it is vital to manage the customer relationship smoothly across every point of contact, providing consistent advice, information and support.
- Multi-function customer management outsourcing: Outsource customer service to experienced professionals where possible. Many companies outsource multi-function customer service to business process outsourcers (BPOs) for scalability, cost efficiency and improved availability. Worldwide spending on BPO services totalled US$712 billion in 2001, and IDC projects a market value of some US$1.2 trillion by 2006. Multi-function customer service outsourcing lets you focus on your business while offering integrated customer service across call centres, fulfilment operations and marketing services.
Brian Bingham, manager of customer care research for IDC, commented, "Companies are undertaking more strategic and ambitious customer service programmes that capitalise on years of consumer research as well as advances in CRM technology and data management."