Monday, 6 February 2012

Customer service facilitators

Do you realise how frustrating it is at times, when you want to make a complain by phone to a firm's "Customer Care" hotline [1-800-88-xxxxx], is when you are told electronically to press one number after another number just to reach the person you wish to speak to.  Now if that is not bad enough, in most times when you thought you would finally be speaking to the officer concerned, you will be informed that their "agents are busy at the moment, and if you like to hold on, please press the hex key."  This is when the company take the opportunity to promote their products or services to you while you are holding on.

Since marketing is also responsible for retaining existing customers, it must find ways to ensure their goodwill and continued business.  One way to make this happen is to make it easy for these customers to complain or inquire about their purchases.

Customers get very impatient when they have to re-explain their needs each time their phone calls are transferred to another employee.  On the other hand, it pleases them very much when an employee is able to show knowledge of their past needs or problems, or the status of the last action taken about a particular complaint.  A "dedicated" customer contact representative with a direct line can be assigned to each individual customer or account.  But that causes problems when the service rep is tied up when a customer calls, or when he or she is sick or on vacation.  It is better, according to The Service Edge newsletter, to establish service teams that will each exclusively handle separate groups of customers.  Since the teams are small (four to six people), customers still will deal with a familiar name and voice, and special customer concerns are easily shared between team members.

Better yet is the use of a customer database containing service histories, which  employees can access for information on individual accounts and update after every transaction.  But do remember that -
(a) the system should measure and reward employees based on the accuracy of data entered into the database, not on the number of calls handled, and
(b) it should be designed for the customer and the service employee, not for the accounting department.  If data entered are not accurate, wasted time and effort will result from confusing or missing information.  If customers are referred to merely as account numbers, nothing will happen, but the aggravation of the customer's frustration when the customer can't give his account number.  Systems that give customer files by name, rather than account code, are more personal as well as user-friendly.

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