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Introduction to customer service

Author: Jim Riley  Last updated: Sunday 23 September, 2012

Marketing - Customer service - introduction

Broadly speaking, customer service can be defined as:

The way a business looks after its customers

Customer service has to be a team effort and not just the responsibility of employees who deal with the public directly.

Providing good customer service is a vital part of managing a business.  Most customers have the option to go elsewhere if the quality of customer service is lacking.  On the other hand, good customer service is a source of competitive advantage.

Good customer service leads to customer satisfaction.  Satisfied customers are more loyal and profitable.  Dissatisfied customers take their money elsewhere – and tell their friends about the poor service they have received.

What is customer satisfaction?

The following ideas are usually considered to be fundamental in achieving customer satisfaction:

  • The product or service must meet customer needs & wants – i.e. it must be of good quality
  • Sales and promotional activities need to create a positive experience for the customer.  For example, the attitudes of employees who make contact with customers should be positive and professional
  • After-sales service should also be positive and appropriate (e.g. user training, help lines, servicing). Customers often need reassurance after they have bought something that they have made the right choice, or help in using a product properly.

Customer expectations of good customer service also play a part in customer satisfaction.  These expectations typically include factors such as:

  • Safety and security
  • Clear and accurate information
  • Legal rights to be upheld
  • Impartiality and objectivity
  • Complaint, enquiry and suggestion procedures
  • Special needs catered for (e.g. disability access)
  • Ethical delivery

Benefits of good customer service

The potential benefits to the firm from providing a consistently high level of customer service include:

  • Increased sales – more likely to try out other products/services too
  • Customer loyalty –more likely to be a source of repeat business and to recommend the business to friends and family
  • Enhanced public image – helps build a brand and provides protection if there is a slip-up in customer service
  • More effective workforce – satisfied customers help create a positive working environment

It should be evident from the points made above that the benefits of good customer service are interrelated, i.e.

  • Satisfied customers will lead to more sales from their own repeat business and from the new customers generated by their recommendations
  • A positive public image will generate more sales by attracting new customers
  • Staff who deliver good customer service receive their customers’ appreciation and are further motivated to offer good customer service and so on

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