In today's market, the long-term and trusting relationship with the customer is the key to financial prosperity and success of any company. Today, high-quality customer service is not only an opportunity to stand out from numerous competitors. For some business areas, this is the only competitive advantage. The quality and level of customer care become the main indicators and criteria by which the potential client evaluates your company.
Customer service issues
As experts note, not all companies comprehend that customer service is the continuation of the initial sale. After all, high-quality service and trusting relationship with client make them come back to you again and again. Research of the current market situation shows that regular customers, who are satisfied with services and are provided after-sales support, represent more than 60% of the turnover of successful companies.
Another key factor can be identified among the main after-sales service complications. In particular, customer care is often not perceived as a further marketing strategy. In practice, many companies consider client service training is linked with the closed transaction and think of it as a subsequent service. However, the sale made once should be seen as an opportunity for new sales in the future.
Based on the analytical and financial research, one can discern a certain tendency, when quality customer service is more beneficial than costly marketing activities and advertising. Moreover, many companies engaged in sales consider high-quality service as the most effective tool to increase sales. For companies, which carry out the development of quality programs of interaction with customers, this trend provides more profitability than other improvements and research, the creation, and introduction of new services or products, offer of credit lines and other client incentive programs.
The benefits of quality service training over quality of products
It isn’t a secret that modern society is more focused on quality support and adequate service. That's why customer care is becoming more relevant and is a key business success factor, exceeding in importance the quality of products offered. Companies engaged in sales and focused on customer expectations secure for themselves the significant competitive advantage.
To achieve such advantage over competing companies, your business model should meet certain requirements, among them:
- The direct participation of management of the company - this is the vital condition for improving the quality of service. It is not recommended to use high-sounding promotional offers such as - "We love our customers," if the company can not provide an individual approach to each potential client. The situation is even worse if the company's management does not believe in the possibility of creating high-quality client service system. Any actions and statements of the management should serve as the confirmation of their loyalty and commitment to the chosen strategy;
- Availability of sufficient financing - a company, must have appropriate resources for implementing the chosen strategy in customer care and the respective trainings;
- Continuous efforts to improve customer service – there is one interesting feature in sales. Namely, client care can be improved to such extend as your potential customers feel it shall be. If a customer receives a quality service, it is mirrored in the relationship to the acquired product or service. In other words, if the client is well served, he will believe that the quality of offered goods (tangible or intangible) is also at a high level. If you want to differ from companies, which sell similar products, your customer service should be better;
- Training and professional development of sales staff - if you have chosen a specific strategy for service, your employees should be trained in it, and know exactly how to implement it in practice. The importance of sales personnel training is the highest, but unfortunately, few companies take that fact into account. Current practice shows that a competent and highly skilled staff is the main engine of sales;
- The internal corporate climate of the company - trade sector requires the active engagement of all staff without exception. For example, for retail selling points, the interaction of sales managers and employees involved in the design of the trading floor will be mandatory. It is important to put products in such a way to maximize the loyalty and satisfaction of potential customers. As for production area, close cooperation of production sector and technical service department is required. The essence of the interaction of your employees is a common wish to offer the client a quality product or service, and thus gain their trust and loyalty with the next purchase. Different departments and sectors should actively cooperate, and not try to stand out and compete;
- Involvement of all employees – every team member, without exception, needs to understand be trained that the client's attitude to the entire company and offered products depends on their work. No matter where one or another employee works. In this regard, it is necessary to apply the principle of universal participation in the implementation of company's strategy and apply for personnel motivational programs.
Further, for an illustrative example, let’s consider the activities of the company involved in the production of cars and heavy machinery.
For the company, which comes to the cars production and heavy machinery market, the main aim is to provide the necessary level of competition with other manufacturers, including foreign, operating in the market for years. To achieve this goal a strategy aimed at improving the quality of production and a relatively flexible pricing policy was chosen. In particular, to improve the quality of customer service of the company, all staff receives appropriate annual training. All newly hired employees were not permitted to work without special training courses (5-6 weeks).
The company conducted professional development of the personnel on various fronts - from the control of the working mechanisms of the conveyor to the corporate principles and values of the company. Management of the company realized that the purchasing value of cars offered depends largely on recommendations and customers’ reviews.
Of course, the government has paid attention to all aspects of business development including advertising, promotion of the commercial brand, etc. However, it is not a secret that people listen more to their friends and acquaintances; on that fact the main accent was put. The company has tried to create the perfect service and high-quality customer care that later led to a rapid increase in sales.
It is important to understand, no matter how much the company invests in improving client service system and related trainings, such expenditures are always paid back and bring projected profits. If your potential customers know about the quality of rendered service and notice it, sales will grow. Mandatory requirement – the quality of service should be stable and not from time to time. You should remind your clients about offered product or service, as well as ways to obtain such benefits.
If your potential or existing customers are informed about the quality of customer support, this will provide your company with additional significant advantage. For sales managers, it will be easier to overcome possible objections and persuade a client to conduct the transaction. When a sales person is confident in sold products and quality of further service, he is more relaxed and comfortable to interact with a potential customer.
Quality customer service - as a sales tool
Apart from the fact that quality customer service is the main competitive advantage, it is a very effective tool to increase sales. When a company is engaged in the industry, dominated by the abundance of similar goods or services, only proper the service and client care can differentiate it from its competitors.
Imagine an ordinary customer, who came to the store to buy a new refrigerator. He sees the entire rows of new units being presented, which are very similar and have the same function, i.e., cooling. However, when making a choice, the customer is likely to go up to a refrigerator, which name he knows and can trust the manufacturer. Modern market relations have undergone some transformation when the only difference among the variety of similar products is after-sales customer service – and it is necessary to take it into account. This is the only way to achieve client's loyalty to the company and offered products, and to archive, it respective trainings are very importance.
In the following example, we will consider the features of service for companies engaged in the area of passenger air transportation.
For companies, operating in the area of passenger air transportation, quality service is vital. To achieve the financial success, clients should associate the name of the company with impeccable service. If a company puts into practice a corporate culture focused on the client, it shall not be frightened of even an international financial crisis, shaking the world economy.
Once proved itself to be the firm business partner with far-reaching plans, the company receives one of the main competitive advantages, and, consequently, more business partners and customers. If the client is sure that the quality of client service is not dependent on the current pricing policy, the level of his loyalty to the aircraft carrier will only increase. Even if the company reduces the ticket price by 50-70%, customers will be confident that this will not affect passenger service.
For a company the main advantage over competing carriers is as follows - competitors believe they are engaged in air transportation, while the company understands that they work in the service sector and client expectations are always in the first place.
Your competitors will have nothing but watch with envy your path to financial success. At the same time, not every company is capable of copying technology, the speed of interaction and pricing policy of a rival company. Experts note that the main obstacle for efficient growth can become the overconfidence. On reaching the top of financial success, the company should not become vulnerable to a sense of complacency and comfort on the results achieved.
Customer’s recognition on a subconscious level
What happens in the customer's mind when he faces a choice between this or that company, by which factors is he guided? Clearly, this may be the opinion of friends and associates. However, psychologists are inclined to the so-called subconscious sense of recognition, which very strong power of persuasion. Specialists in sales have long understood this feature of human psychology and successfully apply it in life.
More and more experts are confident in the continuous saturation of the market, regardless of the industry and market segment. Even if your company distributes products or services of really high quality, there will always be companies with similar products and pricing. That's why experts recommend selling not a product or service, but quality service.
We can cite a clear example from the banking sector. Any banking institution understands that it is very important to sell high-quality service for clients. It is not a secret that the large holdings and corporations work simultaneously with several banking institutions, the prices of which are very similar. In this situation, the only chance to stand out from competing banks is to provide customers with top-notch service and quality support at any point of the globe.
How to achieve leadership in the industry
If management of the company understands that the customers are the main source of profits, and accordingly pays to customer service and trainings not less attention than the financial analysis and calculations, that means the company has chosen the right strategy to increase profits and business expansion. This is the only way to obtain a dominant position in the relevant market segment and to take the company to the path, generating a stable profit.
Unfortunately, in the management of many companies, there are people obsessed with numbers and financial statements. Such management underestimates their potential clients who will come to you again and recommend you to their friends and relatives. Experts say that if the management of the company is carried out only by figures, it may be the main cause of the business financial insolvency.
However, it the management through financial or commercial departments can make the quality customer service as the distinguishing characteristic. In this situation, perfect service is highly valued by customers and is the best tool to achieve sales growth and leadership positions in your industry.
By current practices, it may be noted that companies operating in the production sector are more concerned about the issues of quality customer service, than companies working in the service sector. This is due to a various key factors. If the manufacturing company did not value its client base and operated as a regular service company, the result wouldn’t be comforting. This is because of limitations of manufacturing companies regarding customer base. In turn, service companies mistakenly believe, that the flow of customers will never run out and if one client leaves, and in his place comes a dozen new ones.
Such attitude of service companies to their customer base may cause only confusion among the experts. The future of service companies depends largely on the quality of client care that makes such irresponsible attitude detrimental to business.
Customer service as the opportunity to save the business
Practice shows that the quality and proper client service training can be the salvation, even for companies which do not differ in the desire to meet customers' expectations. There are companies which have the unfortunate reputation and are associated with ignorance, slowness, arrogant, insincere attitude towards the customers, disregard, and indifference. This may be the company, giving unfilled promises, or terminating all contacts with the client in the event of dissatisfaction with the purchased product, but even such companies can be saved by high-quality service.
The only salvation for this category of companies may be the development and implementation of effective programs of interaction with a potential customer. The company should start the work on educating their clients and improving the culture of service. If the company had a negative experience in the past, it should exert maximum effort to return the loyalty of its target audience, the credibility of the proposed product and the wish to make a repeat purchase. International experts have noted a direct dependence of financial success and profitability of the company on the level of customer satisfaction.
Today, when the level of competition has reached the maximum in almost all sectors of the economy, the company's management should educate and train their staff to consider any interaction with a client as part of the client service. Your employees interacting with the target audience should be wondering, "How to do my work so that the client remains satisfied and ready to come back?”
There is an undeniable market axiom - "Poor after-sales service – is the step backward for your company. Good service is the opportunity to stay with the attained results. And only high-quality after-sales service allows the company to move forward, increasing sales, and thus increasing the overall profitability of the company. "
How to get a guaranteed profit growth by improving service standards
The power of the subconscious sense of recognition of the product or the company, in general, is so significant that the level of your customers’ satisfaction can be calculated by indicators of profitability. In practice, such studies deserve special attention. Moreover, with proper training of sales personnel, the level of satisfaction is steadily increasing, correspondingly increasing the level of profitability of the company.
Today, marketing experts are armed with the most advanced research in the sphere of interaction with a potential client. So, technologies enabling to effectively fulfill the incoming complaints and requests of clients are well-known.
Studies in the area of home appliances trading showed that the average return on investments aimed at the development of customer service is about 95-100%. In other words, if a company has invested in the development of the service and the supporting trainings 1 million dollars, its profitability will increase by 2 million dollars. It is worth noting that in the banking sector, such rate of return on investments reaches 170-180%. In the banking business, confidence and customer loyalty is always based on an individual approach and high-quality service.
At the same time, to fully understand the subject, we must go back to basics and understand the definition of the key term "customer service." In the international literature, there are various interpretations of the term, and each has its meaning of the word. Further, we will analyze the term in detail, to provide the reader with a common understanding of the topic.
Quality customer service - the concept and definition
Each person can perceive the concept of service differently. If for one person is sufficient to visit a repair shop and take a broken thing to an unkempt employee, the other may require a different approach. If one person does not worry that the sales person on a trading floor is inattentive and busy with his affairs, the other expects friendly greetings and utmost attention on the part of the sales representative. There is a category of persons for which the after-sales service is the convenience when exchanging faulty products or a high culture of service.
Further, for an illustrative example, we will consider the activities of cinema networks, operating in various regions of the country.
Cinema chain must always take into account the importance of customer service to attract more clients. If a company is not able to develop and train in employees the high culture of service, the company shouldn't hope for success. Taking into account the high level of competition, as in other segments of the market, owners of cinema chain must understand that only first-class service can be the main competitive advantage and emphasize the uniqueness of the business model.
If we see into the past, we can find a lot of cases in international practice when at first glance promising cinema chains could not withstand the competition and became bankrupt. Studies have shown that the main cause of the financial collapse was the low level of customer care. In fact, such a cinema networks simply saved on the appropriate staff training. If the cinema network is large enough and is represented in many cities, it is just necessary to train new and existing employees the proper interaction with clients, otherwise, your clients will go to competitors.
You can do yourself a comparative analysis and determine the level of customer service of your competitors. This will privide you an opportunity to create something unique that will become your main competitive advantage. For example, if there is a cafeteria or a restaurant on the territory of the cinema, your waiters need to be responsive to customers' wishes and show attention. You must train your staff and provide them with appropriate qualifications, which are necessary for providing the first-class service. If you manage to train your personnel high service skills, you will see results in the form of financial success.
According to experts, to achieve financial success, the owners and management of a cinema network must know exactly the following:
- What service the target audience expects;
- How to satisfy client’s expectations for service quality standards.
At the same time, it is important to compare the costs of service with revenue coming from the client. If you manage to meet customer expectations, and at the same time increase the desired profit, you can be sure your customer service system works perfectly.
We can say that quality customer care - is exactly what your potential clients think about the service. Determining for yourself the concept of quality service, think about what your customers expect.
The concept of quality customer service can also be seen in another example, in particular on the example of an international trading company.
The International trading company can be the perfect example of client-oriented service. Today, the turnover of such international companies can reach billions of dollars annually, and the customer base may consist of more than 100 million people worldwide. As a rule, the business model is based on e-commerce and delivery of goods worldwide. Also, it can be a retail trade in specialized catalogs.
The business of such international trade networks may include various segments. For example:
- The main product line of the brand;
- Sales abroad;
- Selling of specialized goods.
If the company intends to trade over catalogs abroad, it must take care of the appropriate resource base. It is necessary to translate catalogs into the local language and display prices in the local currency of the relevant country.
For the international trading network, it is important to establish an effective client feedback. Regardless of how your customers appeal to you - via the Internet or telephone, they must be fully confident that their issue will be resolved shortly. The client must be informed about the free phone lines for support and quality control, which operate around the clock.
It is worth noting that in periods of massive seasonal sales you need to have the necessary personnel with respective training to handle the calls and requests of customers. The number of annual calls to the international trading network can reach tens of millions, and the e-mail can reach the level of hundreds of thousands of letters, accordingly, you must respond to each call and letter.
For the company to have necessary resources, or rather, qualified personnel, it has to invest into the trainings of its employees. And for large trade networks training should be multi-level. It can be about 70 hours of basic and 25 of additional hours of specially skilled training annually. The task of staff is not only taking orders; they should be able to communicate properly with each requesting client and find a way to help him.
Today, more and more international trading networks use different interactive platforms to work with clients. This may be a specialized website or online platform for communication with customers in real time. The client can always make his inquiry and receive an immediate response; this takes communication to a new level, and thus definitely has a positive impact on customer loyalty growth.
Besides the fact that the company carries out its trade 24 hours a day, seven days a week, special attention should be paid to warranty service. Structural units involved in warranty service may become the topmost players of your brand. If warranty service system works like a clock, without delays and failures, the level of potential customers’ loyalty will increase with each purchase made.
What a prospective customer expects
High-quality customer service may not always be the key to success and financial stability. Unfortunately, there are cases when investing in the development of service systems doesn’t bring the desired result. In this relation, it should be noted that client care becomes the main competitive advantage only under the condition that its quality affects the client's decision to close the transaction. In other words, if the customer does not feel your benefits or service improvement, the investment income will remain at a minimum.
An example of the banking business: time reduction for the issuance of credit will affect the potential creditor more significantly than time decrease for execution of loan documents. Also, the reduction of customer service time can’t be compared with providing online service. If the client can apply through the Internet and get the required loan amount, whether it is really worth to work on the drafting of an agreement. As a result, we can make one conclusion - you need to know exactly what your customers expects, and how they see the quality service. And for his, you need related service perfection trainings.
The indisputable fact is - today all interpretations of potential customers about the quality client service have changed dramatically. As the key factors that influence customer's choice may be: ease of purchase and location of the company, the range of products, promptness of delivery, and a particular status of the producer or competitive pricing policy.
However, the fundamental causes of the motivation of potential customers have not changed for centuries. People always want to be treated with care and respect. The potential buyer is interested in the competence of sales person and waits for his help in choosing.
Client service - basic functions
Quality customer care is a set of available resources and personnel of the company, focused on client’s satisfaction. The emphasis here should be placed on all employees without exception. For this reason, customer service regulations and standards are obligatory for each employee, regardless of whether he interacts with clients directly or not.
Under the quality system of service can be understood almost everything that is related to customer care: direct sales and warehouse activities, installation and assembling of equipment, the processing of incoming correspondence and financial accounting, credit transactions and billing, public relations, and promotional activities. Elements of service are everywhere. Wherever your employees fulfill their direct responsibilities, there is a service. That is why the actions of each employee individually affect customer perception of your company, offered service or product.
The main function of the proper system of service is to maintain and increase the customer base of the company. Quality service must constantly attract new clients and actively cooperate with old clients, building long-term and mutually beneficial relationship. Among the main tasks of customer service system, the following must be highlighted:
- Maintaining the existing customer base;
- Continuous and comprehensive development of the company's customer base.
If we consider the high-quality service regarding human relations, it can be described as follows:
- Well-mannered attitude and customer care;
- The availability of trained staff and willingness to help the client;
- Honesty and efficiency in decision-making;
- Professionalism and competence of the personnel.
Current practice shows that the majority of complaints and appeals are caused by cold and indifferent and in some cases even offensive attitude of the sales staff. It is important to keep in mind that for a potential client the sales person’s attitude is more important than the quality of offered product or its real value.
However, many continue to adhere to the erroneous belief that a person working in trading must initially possess the skills to interact with customers and provide quality service – and this is without any training whatsoever. At the same time, the desire of staff to use this skill is something taken for granted.
Is it possible to consider the after-sales service as a charity?
Incredibly, but many companies do exclude the interrelation between the quality of service rendered and sales of the company. The fact that a client has received the product is enough for such companies’ management, here their mission ends. Customer service for this type of manager is considered unpaid, and therefore almost an unnecessary bonus for the buyer.
A thorough analysis of modern standards and trends of client care shows that many companies in the service sector treat the service at workshops level. This equally applies to health care, software development, retail, manufacturing and financial services sectors. For many companies, service is reduced to dull repair. After client’s request the company carries out warranty work, and with that, the company-customer interaction finishes.
In this state of affairs, improving the system of service means an improvement of the quality as such. They have no time to understand whether the client is satisfied with the services rendered and if his problematic is solved. This approach in service is gloomy and will not increase sales growth.
Of course, the quality of the product proposed or service provided is a key factor in building different business models. However, it should be understood that the quality of products and rendered service are the interrelated categories. In other words, with improper service deliver by personnel without any training, even the best product will not look presentable and will be another occasion for the frustration of potential client.
Many companies mistakenly prioritize their activities and care only about the material component of the issue. As a result, this business model is missing the main factor for the potential client, namely, the attention from the sales person, his responsiveness and reliability. Modern research shows that companies emphasizing only on the physical aspects and the tangible elements of the service are not able to provide a real competitive advantage. If all your efforts to improve the service system are measurable and easily accessible for adjustment (for example, complaints procedure, etc.), you will not be able to create an effective system.
Intangible elements and their importance to increase sales
The invisible difference or intangible elements of service are extremely important for the organization of effective service system and quality control. We can distinguish several particularly important elements – these are the responsiveness of sales staff, involvement and reliability. The reliability here refers to the ability of sales staff to prioritize communication and make their decisions, which can forecast expectations of the client. And this requires professional and qualitative trainings.
It is not a secret that understanding of the quality of service can vary considerably from person to person. If you look at the lower level, service can be considered as the additional package owed to be provided to the client in the form of a bonus. At the highest level, customer service requires a certain attention to the concerns and difficulties of the client. The highest level of service is the opportunity to give the customer a bit more than he expected to get but also wanted it.
Many modern companies are practicing a slightly different approach in building service system. For example, customer service acts as the after-sales client support. Thus, sales managers have the opportunity to spend more time to direct sales. It is this function of service is put by the company's strategy. Of course, customer care can be considered as one of the elements of the sale, but such conception will not be complete.
As a rule, in such companies the entire staff works with one objective - to maximize the performance of sales personnel and sales representatives. Some employees receive requests, while others are engaged in the delivery of products. As a result, sales persons are engaged only in sales. However, such a scheme requires from staff specific skills, training and experience in interaction with clients. Often, the personnel of these companies actively work out the following questions:
- How to serve the customer as quickly as possible;
- How to make a quick delivery of a product;
- How I can help the client and improve my performance;
- How to increase customer value through quality service, etc.
In this situation, the management has to spend too much time on sales personnel training. However, as soon as the manager eases up supervision, the quality of service of the company declines again.
Also, quality service can be considered as the company's activities aimed at facilitating the process of buying. Here, the main criteria for the quality of service are the units in charge of receiving orders and delivery of purchased goods. Moreover, the criteria of quality customer service may be recorded in certain corporate documents, in the company's mission or job description of employees.
The benefits of the general change
Often the management of the company equips its employees with different kinds of moral imperatives, or in other words, global regulations. In practice, this may look like the following: "Everything for the needs of the client " and "The customer is always right." etc. However, only management or shareholders of the company notice such high-sounding slogans. The main objective of the business owner is to share with the staff personal expectations and introduce new standards of service. Only by acting and delivering trainings in this direction, you can change the attitude of staff to work as well as its methodology.
As for companies engaged in the service sector, for them, the definition of quality of customer service can be summarized in two simple facts - the swiftness and accuracy of completing the tasks. The main task of the operator is to properly arrange order received and to execute it in strict accordance with the defined corporate regulations. In turn, the sales manager working in the store provides direct sales and handles few product returns and clients’ requests.
The other side of the definition of quality customer service requires a different approach when interacting with clients. Here, the main focus falls on a potential client, proposed product or service, and transactions. Often, quality service principles and standards take the form of corporate orders or immutable facts such as "Sales person must anticipate customers' expectations," or "The main difference of our store is client care," etc.
At the same time, the last universal instruction contains the belief that proper service is the key competitive advantage. In other words, when the market presents a great variety of similar goods and services for a specific target audience, service quality is the only way to differ from competitors.
A more advanced and serious approach in determining the quality of customer service is practiced by modern companies operating in the domain of information technology. However, they do not make this a big secret. All that helps these companies to maintain fidelity and loyalty of its target audience is the identical approach to the client at every stage of interaction. No matter if the client applies for the first time or he had already made a purchase, the company treats him with the same interest and respect. For this category of companies, the essence of quality service is the education of high culture of service among its staff.
From a practical point of view, customer care is the main policy of the company and existing corporate regulation, defining the procedure of interaction with potential customers. Client support and related training largely determine the level of service rendered.
Summing up measured definitions of quality customer service and relater training we can say - perfect service should look the way it is seen by your potential clients. Your staff in the course of interaction with a customer represents the service, the result of which is the client’s attitude to your company and products offered. Subsequently, during the work with each client, the business reputation of your company is formed, which is sure to pay off due to the expansion of the customer base, growth of primary and secondary sales, as well as positive recommendations and valuations from your satisfied clients.