Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Big lessons that small companies teach

From Nordstrom (a Custommerce blog favorite) to Southwest to Taj, all are brands synonymous with great customer service. Yet these and only a handful of other large corporations seem to be known for their service ethic. But at the same time, you see many small and medium sized companies consistently getting their customer service ethos firmly in place. Many may attribute that to lesser customers or negligible hierarchy but like this article in HBR will tell you, it sometimes just comes down to empathy and common sense. So where else does the secret to good customer service lie in a medium sized enterprise? And what virtues of these companies can larger enterprises look to replicate?

A large hotel in Chennai is known to give its employees Rs.1000 everyday as a limit which they can use to repair any reasons of dissatisfaction with a customer. They can use that money on one customer or ration it through the day but it gives them the liberty to improve an experience. This can involve a complimentary drink, snack or anything that the restaurant offers. The limit ensures prudence yet at the same time it allows flexibility. Now, flexibility is an important lesson that most large companies can take from smaller companies like this hotel did. Small and medium enterprises generally have the advantage of flexibility in the way they can serve their customers. They can tailor their customer service efforts as per the customer requirement. Even larger companies can work past Standard Operating Procedures and bring in some flexibility to allow for a better service experience for customers. Another great virtue which large companies can pick from smaller enterprises is of having a top management which prefers a hands-on-approach. Customers of smaller enterprise are able to reach top management with their grievances much faster then they can reach a middle manager at a large enterprise. With certain protocols in place and by basing cases on priority, even a large enterprise can achieve this objective.

On the whole large companies need to see how they can bring in initiatives from smaller companies in moderation backed by strong business cases. They can serve customers much better by steering away from rigidity towards incorporating techniques that can improve the service experience. The lessons small companies are giving aren’t very tough to understand or implement. You just need to use common sense to know how much to commit, and remember, that all your customers need, is a little empathy. 

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