Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Customer Service Loudspeaker

So you are heading up the marketing division of a company. You wake up one day with a dilemma. How do I change my company’s brand positioning and marketing direction to acquire new and retain existing customers? You get out of bed and instantly are struck with the idea of taking that new shiny product of your engineering team and shouting out from rooftops about it. Over breakfast and some burnt toast you remember that nothing speaks better marketing than talking about a fall in prices. That just has to get them hooked. But, as you start your car’s ignition and turn into traffic crawling at a snail’s pace you decide that talking about your company’s heritage and wide customer base should do the trick. Convinced, you finally walk into your office building to be greeted by your office receptionist. Suddenly, her smile reminds you of your impeccable customer service which has been getting you many compliments and mails from satisfied customers praising a service tradition that seems unparalleled in the industry. Now you begin to wonder, is customer service really marketable?

Companies have begun to market their customer service much more today. Companies base entire marketing campaigns around this one facet of their service delivery. But, unfortunately many of those companies barely have processes in place to hand out good customer service. Millions are spent in creating the campaigns and a smattering of that is spent in living up to that promise. But there are companies who knowingly or unknowingly have put in place a very efficient and effective customer service strategy. Restricting the impact of this only to existing customers can be an opportunity missed. Communicating this to prospective customers and existing ones can be your new marketing direction. Consistently good customer service, after all is not easy to deliver and when you are, why not make a noise about it?

So as you wind up for the day and are wrapping up that presentation for ideas you want to take to your management, remember that talking about your customer service can be that differentiator lying in your organization waiting to be shared with your prospects and customers.  It can surely help you re energize your customer acquisition strategy and importantly help you sleep at night, comfortable with the thought that you have a solid marketing plan in hand.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Making the non routine, possible!

What puts Zappos and Nordstrom on a completely different orbit when it comes to customer service? Besides an unbelievable ability to understand their customer, it also is their knack to handle the non routine. A non routine query from a customer can be best defined as a request from a customer asking a service provider to go beyond laid down offerings and processes. This is where most brands get a shot at instant immortality in the minds of the consumer. And companies who do this with great aplomb are the ones who have a plan. A plan that may involve limitless employee empowerment or well distributed resources.  So even though we know, that fulfilling these queries can create customer satisfaction like never before, companies need to ask themselves this; how tenable is developing a strategy for handling a non routine query?

While planning such a strategy companies need to look at the financial burden that they might be taking on. Completing a non routine query can involve a cost which your business could not have accounted for. Preparing for these costs make it a tricky financial proposition. This leads us straight into another quandary a company faces; how do you empower your employee to handle these queries? Drawing the line for how much discretion you can trust your employee with is never easy. It involves a great amount of training and also smart recruiting. Employees have to buy into your brand philosophy or be trained to execute it to perfection. When you are past the monetary and employee capability conundrums, you will have to ask yourself if you can truly sustain such an effort. Changing track midway and not delivering on such queries can lead to a loss of goodwill as customers will immediately sense something is out of place. From that point on, getting back in the good books of the customer may take a greater effort.

So to sum it up, the three key requisites are: financial ability, employee empowerment and sustainability. These are by no stretch of imagination, the only questions you need to ask. A lot of it comes down to top management will and operational nous. The results are there for all to see, the commitment is what you need to ensure. So are you ready to become a Zappos or a Nordstrom? Now that, is not a non routine query!