In today's fiercely competitive and fast-paced economy, customers demand better service -- whenever, wherever and however they need it. For small business owners to succeed they must continually provide outstanding customer service to maintain sales and profitability objectives. This is true across the board no matter what type of business you have. Customer service principles apply whether you run a consumer (B2C) or a business (B2B) oriented operation. Even professional services providers such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, architects, and engineers are all increasing sensitive to the competitive advantage customer service represents.
Why all the interest in customer service? In a word, competition. Consumers, individuals and businesses, have more choices today than ever before. Access to comparative information is easier and consumers want to exert their purchasing power for their own advantage.
Exemplary customer assistance helps your business attract clients, give added value to current clients, retain clients and, most important, improve your bottom line. So even if your company's current methods get the job done, you may need to freshen or restructure your approach. Today's message is that you must constantly improve to succeed because if you don't, you can be sure your competition will.
Deliver More, Better and Faster
As e-commerce becomes more common to business and consumers alike, customers increasingly demand quality assistance. This means you must find innovative ways to enhance service. Going the extra mile includes providing same-day or just in time help to meet customer needs.
But as the Internet increasingly globalizes your company, providing top-notch service becomes more difficult. The solution: Form strong relationships up and down the supply chain to aid your growing client base.
Also, upgrade technology, such as your customer relationship management (CRM) software. This Web-based application integrates front- and back-office systems and greatly improves response time, allowing you to cost-effectively manage clients, prospects and vendors.
Develop a Customer-Centric Approach
But technology upgrades can create problems -- especially if you do not make the necessary changes to processes or improperly train your employees on the new software or equipment. Although technology can automate methods, it won't resolve all your issues. You must implement a customer-centric approach that focuses the whole of your business on client service.
TUV's (not their real name) warehouse staff had trouble preparing display materials for a promotion. Why? They lacked important details about the client's strategy and vision. Typically, these workers would just put the project aside or pass the buck to another department. But the company had recently begun an internal campaign to boost customer awareness. So the employees contacted the marketing group and researched the client's Web site. Taking the extra steps paid off. The customer was delighted with the results, including the early project completion. By taking a customer-centric approach, TUV's departments now work together to better serve their clients.
So take as gospel that customer service can be one of the factors that will differentiate your business and help you to succeed. Also understand that poor service can sink your business quickly and permanently.
Next installment: strategies to help you improve your customer service.