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Making your customer service legendary.

Your Backbone for the 90's and into the 21st Century

Every manager has a certain amount of responsibility for marketing. Moreover, every employee has a responsibility for servicing the customer. If a company's products or services cannot be sold, then the business will obviously fail. If an organization is losing its current customer base, chances are the customers aren't being well treated. If you're having trouble in both areas, cast your feelers out to the people within your organization. Are they happy?

Let's back up a minute here to define a very important word - CUSTOMER. To whom do we apply the term? You may be surprised to learn that every organization, public or private, has 5 sets of customers. First, you have end-user customers who are using your products and/or services as we speak. Secondly, prospects are your future customers. Sell them on your company and its products and/or services and they will become part of your database. The third type of customer is your distributor. Some will buy products from you or simply act as agents to sell your products/services to the end-user. Since distributors buy from you, they are your customers. The fourth type of customer is your supplier. They can supply you with the products that you sell or simply supply you with office equipment, paper, pens, widgets or services with which to run your operation. You are their customer and they are your's. The fifth type of customer is your employee. They supply each other with a service, helping each other turn a smooth operation.

The employees are the internal customers, the other 4 are external customers.

Who is "The customer"?

1. current end-users 2. prospects 3. distributors 4. suppliers 5. employees

In short, a customer is anyone with whom you come into contact in the course of doing your job.

As you read through, you will encounter ideas that can be used to set up customer service programs for all 5 customer groups. They all fall under one umbrella program which I call C.A.R.E.

C.A.R.E.

Customer Assurance Reaches

Everywhere

Isn't that what customer service is all about - caring? Customer service or customer assurance, as many people call it, doesn't just reach out to the end-user. Most of the programs you see in use today were developed for the end-user only. The reality is that the same service and the same caring must reach out to prospects, distributors, suppliers and employees. If any member of the five groups of customers is disgruntled, the other four groups will be affected. Positive, satisfied employees will pass positive energies on to the end-user customer. Customers like doing business with positive people. Customer assurance reaches everywhere.

When developing your C.A.R.E. program you will need a specific program for internal customers and one for external customers. As part of the module for end-users, ensure that you have a good recovery program.

"To err is human" and computers do a good job of erring as well! Even if an employee never flubs his lines when it comes to handling customer complaints, there will be times when needs and expectations fail to mesh to everyone's satisfaction. In such cases, it's crucial to address customer problems as quickly and as completely as possible. Employees and distributors must work hard to "recover" angry customers. Find out what happens when you have an angry customer. Does anyone apologize? Who attempts to fix the problem? Once you have the answers, design a good recovery program. Don't let an angry customer leave the fold. He/she usually tells about 10 other people about the episode. You can bet your boots that those 10 won't do business with you either. Here is a quick 5 step recovery plan.

a) Apologize - sincerely acknowledge the error.

b) Quick reinstatement - customers must believe that you are doing your best to get things back in order and that you have their best interests at heart.

c) Empathy - an apology tells the customer it matters that there was a breakdown, whereas empathy adds that it matters that the person involved was frustrated and irritated.

d) Atonement - say to the customer that you want to make it up to them. They will want to hear this.

e) Follow-up - very important to recovery. Both the customer and the front-line employees need to be friends again. Train your employees to follow-up to ensure a happy relationship.

The overall message of a recovery system is this,

When service fails,

treat the person,

then the problem.

According to Tom Peters, co-author of "In Search of Excellence", one of the companies he reaches spends four full days training its parking lot attendants. The employees are usually teenagers who work for a grand total of 5 weeks! The company is Disneyland. Those of you who have had the pleasure of visiting a Disney location know that this organization exemplifies true customer service. In their opinion, the parking lot attendant is often the first person that park guests meet. Like a receptionist in an office, the attendants reflect the personality of the organization. Hire a grumpy receptionist and you'll have customers and suppliers questioning whether or not they should be doing business with you.

Betska K-Burr is the author of "Creating Champions", a business book for successful leadership. She resides in London, Ont., and is the founder of K-Burr and Associates. Ms. K-Burr is a professional speaker and trainer in leadership, motivation and customer service.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Canadian Institute of Management
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:K-Burr, Betska
Publication:Canadian Manager
Date:Sep 22, 1993
Words:915
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