A Holistic View of Customer Service
Here is a controversial statement to kick things off: “Customer Service is not all about the customer”
Customer Service is the delivery of a clearly defined service to the customer, simple as that. Too many sales-and-marketing teams have pushed services beyond their intended and realistic scope, setting customer expectations way too high.
Companies cannot afford to spend valuable resources servicing customers with no extra income thereof. Yes, the customer might be happier, and that always helps potential sales, however spending loads of money on servicing existing customers unduly will put you out of business much faster.
One of my roles is as an accredited assessor for the UK Institute of Customer Service, and we teach a much more rounded (or holistic) view of Customer Service. This approach has 4 categories of behavior, each of which are balanced to give a more complete and effective delivery structure.
- You and Your Customer – focusing on customers and adapting accordingly.
- You and Your Organization – keeping overall guidelines and goals in mind when delivering the service.
- You and Your Colleagues – working as a team to deliver a better service than one person alone.
- You and Your Development – your own skills and objectives should be developed as the service is delivered.
If you think this doesn’t really happen, then look at many successful companies and you’ll notice that the services that support their products have well structured boundaries, and sometimes almost seem quite limited (i.e. they will not do whatever you want). Even in retail, normally very flexible in service, we’ve seen recent cut-backs on the scope of customer service, such as Marks and Spencer cutting its returns policy from 90 days to 35 days (article).
In the current climate, as many companies look at Customer Services as somewhere they could cut budgets (example), it still remains a key differentiator for many product sectors, and can have disastrous effects if done without careful planning and downstream modeling.
The proper solution, to save money and actually give customer clarity that they often learn to respect, is to adopt the right structure and scope to Customer Service delivery. As you can see from the 4 areas above, this can have benefits for everyone involved.