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Who your customer really is
Perhaps you think that the people who have direct contact with actual paying customers or clients are the only ones who need to consider service. You, as someone who deals purely with people inside the company, are not a giver of service and do not have customers yourself. What about the person from credit control who needs you to get a copy of a customer’s invoice for her? Or the person who does your books who needs you to keep your receipts in some kind of order?
People you deal with inside the organisation are your customers too - internal, rather than external customers, but still deserving of the same consideration and care.
The external customers are the people who buy your goods and services and who make pay day possible.
The internal customers are the people with whom you work inside your company, the people who pull together as a team to deliver the product or service required by the external customer.
What your customer expects
Although service is difficult to define, we can still say what it is that the customer wants from a transaction. Think about it for yourself - put yourself in the shoes of a customer of yours, or think of a time when you, as a customer contacted an organisation. You might like to make a list and see how it compares with the one below.
The customer wants:
- someone who will listen;
- someone who will solve their problem; and,
- someone who will do what they say they will.
Or, to put it another way, the customer wants to speak to someone who is:
There are other things you may have put - accepting, non-judgemental, trustworthy, professional - and these are equally valid points. Lists like this grow longer the more time you spend thinking about them. What you can’t do is to put these points into an order of importance - that depends on your customer. Remember, too, that customers are neither aware of, nor interested in, how many other customers there are or how busy you may be. As far as they are concerned, you have one customer and one problem with which to deal!
Benefits of good service
If, as service givers, we deal with our customers effectively and efficiently, the company will benefit in a number of areas:
- the cost of solving problems that occur will be minimised;
- money owed to the company may be collected quickly;
- a relationship is developed between the company and the customer;
- the possibility of supplying additional products and services is opened up; and,
- it introduces the customer to an area of the company other than sales.
Michael LeBeouf, an internationally published author, lecturer and professor of management at the University of New Orleans, tells of someone who ordered a floral arrangement to be sent to celebrate the opening of a new branch office. When he got to the grand opening, he was shocked to find a wreath bearing the inscription 'Rest in Peace'! When he angrily rang the florist to complain, the reply was, “That’s not so bad. Look at it this way: Somewhere a person was buried today under a wreath that read, 'Good luck in your new location!'1
Treating customers like this, however, means that you miss out on a tremendous opportunity. General Electric conducted a survey and found that customers who had bought their products and subsequently had problems with them, but whose problems were effectively resolved to the mutual satisfaction of the company and the customer, were three times more likely to purchase further products and services than those customers who had not had any problems at all. Those customers now had confidence that any problems that did arise would be dealt with effectively.
Think of it this way; if you buy a new television, take it home, plug it in and it blows up, you are not a happy customer. However, if you ring your supplier and within an hour they are at your door with a new television, which they plug in and test before taking the old one away, and they leave you a bunch of flowers and a box of chocolates besides, where will you go when you want a dvd player? To the shop that sold you the exploding television of course!
Very often in customer service we only get the chance to show how good we are when something goes wrong, but what the customer remembers is the successful outcome of the transaction - hence their confidence in making further purchases from us.
1Michael LeBoeuf, 'How to Win Customers and Keep Them For Life', Judy Piatkus (Publishers) Ltd, 1990.