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ARTICLESManagement & Service

PLAN TO SATISFY CUSTOMERS

Products and services bring in sales and reap profits, a service strategy enhances it. Since customer service knows no limits, volumes can be said on how to do it. However, similar to introducing a product or service, a customer service strategy works on simple stages as PLAN, IMPLEMENT, ACT, MEASURE, IMPROVE and helps make these products and services customer focused. 

PLAN

Planning a service program would primarily mean understanding what more your customer expects and what more you can offer other than your product. How can you delight him such that he repeats his business?

Is it picking a call in 2 rings, offering a welcome drink, hailing a cab, holding the door, on time performance, a genuine thank you, a smile or addressing him by name. Sometimes being less pushy might entail good service or helping him buy from competition might be commendable. Customer service is that creative pursuit.

With a product and customers on hand, plan out services that delight them. Introduce these services in stages, as it is your employees who are going to execute it. Introducing them all together only creates pressure and could work adversely. It is also not wise to have your finger in too many pies. Furthermore small doses help in better monitoring. A service strategy should be a conscious and sure transition and not an overnight transformation. Administering in stages helps in having deep-rooted effect and converting it to a service culture in time.

A fast food restaurant should start with on time performance and efficiency. A call center should work on the time taken to pick a call and how well it is answered. Showroom sales should work on professional “meet and greet” methods. If a sale is concluded in 15 minutes and documentation takes over 30 minutes you know where to start in terms of service.

Trying to be your own customer helps in planning a service strategy.

IMPLEMENTATION

It is human to resist change. Something vague as customer service only adds skepticism. This makes implementation a difficult and challenging task. It is hence imperative that the management team works on translating this dream to vision. Managers have to thoroughly understand the service plan and be self convinced, for only when they are convinced can they convince their employees. It is all about promoting the concept to employees. It is about putting apprehensions to rest and helping employees see the benefit to themselves and the company.

While management have understood the service program, your frontline should be made aware and trained with the why, what, who, when, where and how of customer service.

Actual kickoff happens when all managers roll up their sleeves and start practicing their preachings.

ACT

Action is that important stage that can make or break a service strategy. It has direct impact on business. Action in customer service is not a frontline function alone. It has to be diligently practiced from chairman to charwoman. There is no exception.

Appointing experts and consultants through the planning, implementation and training stages go a long way in giving a professional approach. This helps build a good foundation while executing the service plan.

The action process is possible only when it is made exciting, interesting and challenging. An enthusiastic team could surprise you with their responses. They could have suggestions you never thought of. After all they are more experienced in handling customers. Motivating and keeping them fully charged helps render good service. A service plan is never complete without this vital link. Any amount of planning and implementation would prove useless unless they are not enthusiastic enough to pass the exuberance to your customers. It is a three-way partnership between your employees, customers and yourself.

According to Sir Richard Branson “We have three priorities in our company. The first is people, the second is customers and the third is shareholders. If we get the first right the second follows. And if we get the second right the third follows.”

Working with your employees in the customer service exercise is not a one-time affair. It is there to stay as long as your business exists. Doing otherwise would only turn disastrous for when employees are ignored customers tend to get ignored.

MEASURE

Having rendered service you need to monitor and measure your performance. You need to know how you have performed. Measuring process could be in many forms.

A straightforward solution is to ask customers themselves. Customer survey feedback is a sure indication of your service standards. Having a structured questionnaire not only helps in indicating performance but point out weakness and strengths. They help analyze Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT).

Customer suggestions give ideas for improvement. Customer complaint is another true friend that forewarns you on areas needing improvement. A company without any complaints is something to be worried about. Every complaint is an opportunity for improvement. Do not be frightened nor loathe it. On the contrary it is something to be welcomed and rewarded. It is there to help you do better.

Many companies would like to see their employees as ambassadors. Inculcating this philosophy not only adds self-esteem but also benefits the company. Healthy organizations thinking thus encourage feedback from employees who are in a better position to gauge customer responses. Employee response seen pragmatically helps the company go a long way.

Mystery shopping helps monitor and check service standards. Being your own customer also helps in getting first hand information on performance. How was the phone answered, what was the response to a query, were your employees proactive, did they seem an excited bunch, were you enticed to buy from your own company. In short do employees perform as envisaged? Are you satisfied? Will your customers be satisfied?

IMPROVE

The final analysis - Time to review fruits of your labor. One could definitely expect better results than when there was no service plan. However analyzing the results give constructive feedback. You now know the accuracy of your service plan. Did we connect with the customer, is there something more to be done, should we underplay at times. You may have to go back to the drawing board to modify certain services for it is corrective action time. You are now getting better equipped to satisfy customers.

With modified services you now add on new service plans. Implement - act - measure. And the process goes on to make the company a better place for customers, employees and yourself alike.

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