What exactly is customer service?
Innately, we all seem to know or feel when we receive it or not, yet trying to define service or quantify it, remains elusive.
A Wikipedia definition goes some way to explaining the concept of Customer Service:
"Customer service is the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase. A series of activities designed to enhance the level of customer satisfaction – that is, the feeling that a product or service has met the customer expectation."
Others try to explain the concept of service by defining it in Marketing terms. The 4 P's of Marketing have been more or less defined over the years as Product, Price, Placement and Promotion and are still accepted as valid today. However, there is a lot more to providing a service than having a great product at an affordable price at a convenient location and then telling everyone about it.
With global competition and production being increasingly centralised in locations that offer a more economically favourable balance between price and product, has come the loss of diversity. Making it increasingly difficult for a company to define its self by the product it delivers. Service has never been more important.
According to the Forrester website, the 4P's of service can be defined as:
Pain - or lack of. Customers want effortless service. They want to receive an accurate, relevant and complete answer to their question upon first contact with the company.
Personalisation - Customers are no longer satisfied with the 'one size fits all' service experience. Today, they want the product and service that they purchase to be individually tailored to their specific needs, wishes and wants.
Productivity - Customer service organizations must pragmatically walk the balance between customer satisfaction and cost. A reliable and efficient service experience gets positive customer satisfaction.
Proactivity - Customers want to feel like the company has their best interests at heart and that the company is partnering with its customers to keep them satisfied and loyal throughout their engagement lifetime.
In Australia, the debate about customer service, or the perceived lack of it has been pursued for as long as Osca has been in existence. And there is still no clear concept available do define it. About the only thing all the experts agree on is that it is very important to the success of any business.
We realised that Customer Service was going to be at the core of everything we do right at the beginning and started developing our own tools within the first 6 months of operation. The clue being in the word Ironing Service. Or to put it more clearly, we came to the conclusion that we are a Service company and our product is Ironing. Ironing is what we do, Service is what we deliver.
Most businesses look at service from the top down. Service strategies are developed through demographics, marketing, research and tested with focus groups before they are implemented through systems and training and passed on all the way down to the point of contact staff . "Will you have fries with that?" is a good example. The customer is considered but not consulted.
At Osca, we have adopted a service philosophy that starts from the bottom up. The needs and wishes of the customer come first and the service is developed organically, depending on each customers individual circumstances. As the service develops, it becomes clear that some aspects are more common than others and those are adopted more widely for the benefit of all the customers whilst the focus remains on the individual customer.
In the last five to ten years, the thinking about service has turned towards the 'Customer Experience'.
Customer Experience as defined on Wikipedia is the sum of all experiences a customer has with a supplier of goods and/or services, over the duration of their relationship with that supplier. From awareness, discovery, attraction, interaction, purchase, use, cultivation and advocacy.
In short, customer experience meaning a customer journey which makes the customer feel happy, satisfied, justified, with a sense of being respected, served and cared for, according to his or her expectations or standard, starts from first contact and develops through the whole relationship.
"Loyalty," says Jessica Debor, "is now driven primarily by a company's interaction with its customers and how well it delivers on their wants and needs." (2008)
"A company's ability to deliver an experience that sets it apart in the eyes of its customers serves to increase their spend with the company and, optimally, inspire loyalty to its brand."
A 2009 Strativity Group study of over 860 corporate executives revealed that companies that have increased their investment in customer experience management over the past three years report higher customer referral rates and customer satisfaction.
The customer experience has emerged as the single most important aspect in achieving success for companies across all industries Peppers and Rogers.
Ultimately, service is about perception and perception is shaped more by feelings than facts. So service can not be truly defined from the top down if perception is a progression that leads to a conclusion.
Service must be defined from the self. Understanding that every customer has their own perception, reached through their own experiences and feelings just as each and every one of us do, is key to providing a good service.
Being in the service industry, I pay particular attention every time I engage a service provider and I am always on the lookout for excellence. What can I learn from what they do, that can help my company improve the service we offer to our customers. My experiences fall into four basic groups.
We all know the feeling. We engage a service provider and by the time our experience concludes, we feel underwhelmed. A good example is making a call and being put 'on hold' while an audio message repeats "Your call is very important to us, please hold." Well, if it is so important, Why don't you answer it?
We go to a restaurant. A pleasant waiter arrives, takes our order in a competent manner, remembers who ordered what, brings the meals out on time and takes care of any requests we may have. Exactly what one would expect. How things should be all the time. A level of service we expect and should get every time.
It's the service we want to tell our friends about. "I went to a greengrocer, they packed the vegetables in a recyclable cardboard box and offered to carry the box to the car with me." We feel that the service provider has gone that extra step (pardon the pun), gone out of their way, did something that wasn't entirely necessary, but appreciated.
OVER THE TOP SERVICE
We arrive at a hotel, the service is professional and flawless. From the doorman, the concierge through to the room service and cleaning staff. Everyone is super polite and helpful and offer any assistance needed while our account is open. On our way out, business concluded, we are ushered into a waiting taxi, but if the taxi driver takes too long inputting our destination into the GPS, the same doorman who was all over us when we arrived hassles the driver to move on because he is taking too long - seemingly without any concern for the passengers. We've given you our best, you've paid, now get out. Somehow at the end of it all, we feel like we've been had and a potentially exceptional experience invites a different type of conversation with our friends.
We have engaged the service provider and by the time our experience concluded we feel that although the service was faultless, it lacked any real relevance to our own individual needs.
Service is not just about a rational experience. How quickly a phone is answered, what are the opening hours, delivery times, etc. It is much more about how a customer feels. It is about how a customer consciously and subconsciously sees his or her experience.
Service is a selfless act. Genuine Selfless Service has nothing to do with WHAT we are doing; and everything to do with HOW we do it.
Over 25 years of striving to give the best service possible,
considering the customer as the number one priority in everything we do.
other research links