Defining Customer Service
Customer service is now a function that is built into the very fabric of the total service delivery and designing system. Customer service involves task-oriented activities, other than proactive selling, that involve interactions with customers in person, by telecommunications or by mail.
Two main criteria of designing and performing a function;
- Customer satisfaction
- Operational efficiency
Customer service emphasizes front-stage activities (some delivered by telecommunications). All personnel who routinely have customer contact have customer responsibilities, even if working for operations. Computer technology and telecommunications make it possible to offer national or even global customer service out of a central location on a real-time basis, 24 hours, 7 days a week.
Delivery options include;
- Toll-free phone numbers
- Web sites
- Electronic self-service equipment such as ATMs.
Factors influence the nature of customer service function:
- Presence/absence of intermediaries
Who may perform customer contact tasks?
- High contact vs. Low contact
A greater customer involvement means more CC tasks and greater importance for effective, synergistic CS management.
- Institutional vs. Individual purchases
The latter introduces greater variability into the CS process, although the former may involve coordination between contact persons within the client organisation.
- Duration of service delivery process
Longer processes pose a need to provide information on work-in-progress.
- Capacity-constrained services
likely to require queuing control and/or reservations systems.
- Frequency of use/repurchase.
Regular customers may need less information/education but seek recognition/rewards (e.g. frequent flyer programs) for repeated usage.
- Level of complexity
More complex services need to focus on assisting inexperienced customers and contingency plans for problem resolution.
Guidelines for Effective Service Program Implementation
- Recruit the right employees
- Train employees properly
- Educate customers and employees
- Be efficient first, nice second
- Standardise response systems
- Develop a pricing policy
- Consider using subcontractors
- Be proactive – look for opportunities to do more for customers
- Evaluate performance regularly
- Acknowledge and affirm good work
- Take appropriate action to improve defective work
Employees and Customer Service
Employees plays a central role in serving customers effectively within any reputed organization. They are critical to the delivery of the core and supplementary services, and when services fail, employees are critical in service-recovery efforts. Those service personnel who directly interface with customers are referred to as ‘boundary spanners’ and can experience significant stress.
This stress is due to:
- Emotional labor – service personnel often have to manage their own feelings so that the public display is one of professionalism and courtesy.
- Role conflict – when the goals of the customer and organization are in conflict, boundary spanners are expected to satisfy both.
- Role ambiguity – some service personnel work in complex situations and may not always know what is expected of them
- Role overload – to deal with variable demand, and because services cannot be warehoused, employees are often subjected to work overload in peak periods.
- Service climate – the employee perceptions of management policies, practices and procedures.
Findings from the audit will establish the current situation and provide a basis for planning the future scope and quality of the customer service effort. There is also needed to appraise competitive efforts.