Monday, May 24, 2010

"The Great Customer Service Debate"

At the Custommerce India Chapter 6 meet held on January 29, 2010, we aimed to examine strategies that help organizations not only weather the economic challenge, but also pick up strategies that help differentiate them from competition.
(From Left, Dr. A. Parasuraman, Mr. Raja Gopalakrishnan, Ms. Tuhina Pandey, Mr. Gautam Mahajan, Mr. S. Ramaswamy)

The ‘Great Customer Service Debate’ witnessed eminent speakers from various facets of industry like Dr. A. Parasuraman (Vice Dean of Faculty, James W. McLamore Chair in Marketing, University of Miami), Mr. Gautam Mahajan (President, Customer Value Foundation), Mr. Raja Gopalakrishnan (Group Managing Director, Asia Pacific; (FIS)), Mr. Sundaram Ramaswamy (Entrepreneur, Director & Thought Leader), and the topics for discussion were:
  • ‘Technology is an enabler for desired customer experience – Yes / No'
  • ‘Which drives desired customer experience better? - Value based strategy or Metric driven strategy’

During the discussion, views were presented in favor of and against each dimension. Based on this, strategies to enhance customer experience were arrived at.

Appended below are some key takeaways from the presentations:

• Technology must aid in providing great customer service and satisfy the needs and requirements of customers. The customer must choose the time, place and manner of usage and should be provided at competitive price points. Technology has to be consistent, scalable and sustainable and it must be something that fits your business goals. While technology per se is not bad, its implementation is crucial. Implementation of technology has to be in line with the business goals, customer requirements and customer usage patterns.

• Value and metric-based strategies do not have to necessarily be in conflict. The reason that there is a perceived conflict between these two things is that most companies do not measure the right metrics. What they measure in terms of metrics is customer service and other things connected to service as perceived by customers. A lot of these metrics are easily measurable. For example, how much time the call centre took to answer, the attitude of the employees and the aspect that they show customers are the process related services that have a much bigger impact on customers. So that is where the conflict comes and not just in measuring the right metrics.

We thank all our sponsors for making Custommerce India Chapter 6 a success.

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Turning Customer Service Inside Out!!!

While companies focus thousands of rupees on external customer service in hopes of wooing and retaining customers, little attention is being paid to the effect poor internal customer service has on customer satisfaction.
When we think of customer service, we think of staff serving customers over a counter or over the phone. But customer service occurs within your organization as well. How well is your staff serving its internal customers: other departments, its employees, management, vendors and consultants? Good internal customer service starts with good morale within your group. It refers to your level of responsiveness, quality, communication, teamwork and morale.

How well are you providing other departments with service, products or information to help them do their jobs and to help your organization succeed? And what goes around usually comes around. Myopic thinking should be avoided and working together will achieve win-wins for the greater good of the customers.

Happy employees are productive, and customers can experience the difference. Sooner or later the ripple effect of internal customer service reaches your customers. To really walk your service talk, you should make sure that your commitment to internal customer service matches your company's external focus on customer care. Corporate values that emphasize treating employees well translate to good customer care too. Companies that care about their people can better ask their people to care about their customers.

By improving internal customer service you would just enhance the customer service your external customers receive. You're walking your talk regarding customer service.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Customer complaints – An opportunity

Statistics suggest that when customers complain, business owners and managers ought to get excited about it. The complaining customer represents a huge opportunity for more business.
-Zig Ziglar

Sometimes complaints can be overwhelming. However, by taking them in stride with an open mind, we can learn much from our customers' feelings about our business. After all, a complaint is nothing more that a person telling you that his / her needs haven't been met.

Be careful not to call his complaint or situation a problem, because doing so might aggravate him to the point that he loses his ability to think and express himself clearly. The second most frequently stated reasons customers leave a company is that the company did not handle their complaints well. The cause of most customer complaints is failed expectations. As dissatisfied customers, they are giving us a second chance to correct something that should have been done properly the first time around. If you listen to them patiently and attentively, their complaints will alert you to a real or potential problem, or tell you of a better way to handle a situation. A little common sense, a lot of genuine sincerity, and some tact will go a long way in resolving the issue.

We are not used, however, to coping with complaints. We let our emotions rule our thinking usually. Consequently, we let complaints wear us out because we take on the complaint as a personal attack on us. It is not! Consider this, that every customer complaint may actually give you an opportunity to differentiate yourself from your competition. If handled effectively, complaints may actually increase customer and brand loyalty. It costs five times more to reach a new customer than to keep a current one. So it makes sense that we can increase profits by keeping customers happy with better complaint handling.

Hence, we should make it a goal for every single customer who walks through our door to have a better impression of our business when they leave than they did when they came in. We should handle the customer with care and with sincere professional courtesy. It can be a leading indicator of impending change in customer mindset at a brand or industry level.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Excellent customer service is never an accident!

“Excellent customer service is never an accident; it is the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction, skillful execution and the vision to see obstacles as opportunities." There are plenty of examples that we experience both inside and outside of our work environments that remind us of the "exceptional" customer experience, and the not so warm and fuzzy experience (the one you really tell everyone about) that we can learn from in order to improve our service.

When Apple released their new iPhone 3G, customers expected the phones to work. Instead, in a product launch disaster, a customer focused organization with great technical support and having customers in 22 countries was left hanging. As the PC World headline read: "Apple Loses its Shine"! Instead of exceeding customer expectations with a brand new product that wowed new users, the company failed to meet even basic expectations and jeopardized its reputation with loyal users.

Think about your loyalty quotient. To what businesses are you loyal and why? If you will take a few minutes to think about this, you may discover the link to loyalty in your own business! Is there a restaurant you regularly frequent? Why? Probably NOT because they serve good food - that is expected and many restaurants fill that need. It could be because their food is exceptional every time, the service is exceptional, and the atmosphere unique. To achieve loyalty, then, we have to surpass just being good at what we do. And, loyalty must be identified as a goal of the organization. Customer service is the key factor that helps to achieve this goal.

The challenge in today's turbulent environment for business leaders is how to set yourself apart from other service providers, and position your organization for positive growth. The simple (yet too often missed) answer is through exceptional customer service! Ultimately what determines whether a customer chooses to do business with your organization or practice versus a competitor usually boils down to you make him or her feel. Exceptional customer service is not an accident, yet a very focused, planned and well executed strategy led by customer centric leaders.

A customer centric leader understands that we need to look at service through the eyes of our customers, and look for opportunities to put a personal thumb print on each interaction we have with customers.

"Being on par in terms of price and quality only gets you into the game.
Service wins the game."

-Tony Alessandra

Sunday, April 11, 2010

About Custommerce...

Custommerce started off as an annual industry event conducted by Servion Global Solutions, to create awareness of Customer Interaction Management solutions. The objective has been to highlight the benefits one can gain in business by improving and enhancing customer response. The audience for this event has been around 250-300 executives, typically - Chief Information Technology Officers, Chief Marketing Officers and Heads of Customer Support drawn from large corporate houses across Asia Pac and the Middle East. Traditionally, Servion has been inviting captains of Indian industry to provide the keynote address - evangelizing the use of technology to enhance business response.

Custommerce today is morphing into a movement that will work towards identifying challenges facing the customer interaction / customer service industry and provide possible strategies to achieve a customer driven economy. The movement is not designed to make recommendations or draw any conclusions on the right or wrong strategy. It is solely meant to provide a platform to discuss and debate issues with industrialists and thought leaders. This platform will also allow member organizations to ‘network’ with their peers by way of discussions to gain insights into how Customer Interaction Management Strategies are implemented worldwide.