Good customer service is the key

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Good customer service is the key
Staff training is an important aspect of creating an environment conducive to customer happiness. - Photo for illustrative purpose only

Dubai - In an increasingly competitive landscape, experts debate on how to stand out.

By Rohma Sadaqat

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Published: Thu 14 Jan 2016, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Fri 15 Jan 2016, 10:35 AM

Having a good customer service culture creates special moments for a customer and makes the product memorable to them, thereby boosting a company's brand, experts in the customer service industry noted.
"The best customer service is when there is an absence of problems to escalate, and the customer doesn't even realise that we are there, as a trusted partner for services, working hard for them in the background," David Tudor, regional service and installation director for the Mena region at Dorma, told Khaleej Times.
Vishaal S. Shah, CEO of Panache International, explained that over the years the world is becoming a smaller place, with global choices to meet consumer needs. "This makes for a myriad of options to choose from. Manufacturers and distributors are constantly faced with challenges, especially in terms of competitive pricing, as the world is far more aware of their right to choice, and much prefer a complete consumer experience in lieu to a simple one or two benefits of purchase. Thus one could have the best products, but with poor customer service support the product is of no value. Top notch customer service separates a great company from a good company."
Manish Jeswani, managing director of Eaters, the holding company of 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria restaurants, also noted that for every industry, the level of customer service differs. Some industries, he explained, are very product-based and do not require extensive customer service, such as monopolies in certain sectors, or value retail segment of the market.
"On the other hand, the hospitality sector is all about customer service. If the product is the core, then the shell is customer service. In today's world, customers are vocal and recognise good work. This makes delivering the best customer service even more relevant, as the word-of-mouth phenomena can really make or break your brand," he said.
When asked about some of the ways that companies can invest in creating a good customer service culture, Rohit Bachani, director at Merlin Digital, pointed out that staff training is an important aspect of creating an environment conducive to customer happiness. Although it can take extra resources, time, and money, excellent customer service can generate positive word-of-mouth, help keep your customers happy, and promote them to become repeat customers, he revealed.
"At Merlin, we have a strict policy for customer complaints, wherein our team strives to maintain a turnaround time (TAT) of less than 24 hours to address any query or complaints raised through our toll-free customer service number, email, and website. In fact, our team has been able to maintain an average TAT of about eight hours. Businesses should also invest in a dedicated service center as well as a daily tracking system for customer complaints. Taking a personal approach to complaints has always been appreciated by our customers," Bachani said.
Gautam Ganglani, managing director of Right Selection, echoed the sentiment and pointed out that employees, who are educated and engaged, are valuable assets who serve customers at the highest level. "That is oftentimes the goal of a sound company - to provide the best customer service through the positivity and efficiency of a sound personnel base. We tend to train customer-facing staff to be empathetic and sympathetic toward the worries and concerns of consumers, as it creates a human appeal for the brand."
Ganglani also explained that investing in an internal learning resource center with the latest books, audio and video based programs, to sharpen the skills and knowledge of employees with the latest trends, is a good measure towards positive customer relations. "In addition to birthdays of team members, celebrate all nationalities' special cultural events, from Christmas and Diwali to Eid and Hanukkah. It makes the employees empathetic towards members of different nationalities and states," he advised.
"Our employees are the front line in the critical customer interaction and a poorly trained employee will project an air of ineptitude; this is especially true when it's a service centric industry. In a region like the UAE, where there is such a melting pot of different cultures, it's even more important to ensure that employees who interact with the external customer are not only fully trained, but also regularly monitored and offered remedial training where needs be," Tudor said.
"Different cultures have differing ideas, even down to something as simple as proper telephone etiquette, on what may be acceptable and perfectly normal in one country and totally unacceptable in another, therefore we aim to train our people to as close to international customer service standards as possible," he added. "We currently monitor our performance through customer satisfaction surveys and even through statistical data picked up through the interactive voice response on our telephone software system."
Shah also stressed that good customer service creates a strong foundation for the future. "It's an investment measure to ensure that a company sustains through the challenges of growth in a dynamic, rapidly changing market. Customer retention is key for a brand to become a household name. Acquiring new customers is much more expensive than retaining those a company has a solid understanding with, and a high net promoter score drives future benefits from growth," he highlighted.

 'Complaint is an opportunity'
A customer marching up to a business with a complaint might cause a sense of dread to many managers, but customer service expert, Ron Kaufman, views it as an opportunity.
The chairman and founder of Up Your Service and author of New York Times Best-selling Book 'Uplifting Service', told Khaleej Times how it is important to have a good service recovery strategy.
"When things go wrong, how does the company respond to that? Should you duck and cover, or run around and point the finger at somebody else and say it wasn't my fault, or does the culture, does the organisation have a culture of service recovery like Xerox in the UAE has? When the customer has a complaint, it is a huge opportunity, it's a wonderful chance for us to jump in there and not just fix the problem and show the customer that we're concerned, but do something extra, something a little surprising so that you bounce back to a much higher level of loyalty," he said.
"Customer service today is the brand. It joins the historical brand identity of logo, advertising, marketing, product specification, benefit features, price, discounts, payment terms, availability, 24/7 delivery, digital download, going to the store, all of those things which have been associated with the brand, but today it's the total experience that people have that is the brand. It's no longer just about the product, the price, and the availability," he explained.
He added: "And laid on the top of that today, is the social dimension that didn't exist before. In the past, maybe you heard from your neighbor or from your colleague at work about what they thought, or what they bought, or what they recommended, or what they discouraged you from participating in or buying for yourself. But, today you don't have to know the people you're getting this from. You're actually going and looking for it."
Kaufman also highlighted how phenomenal online customer reviews end up becoming media stories, but so do horrible reviews. He also explained that educating people on how to offer better service should not only be for those who serve the customers at the front line, but for everybody throughout the organisation. "If you have people inside the company doing shared services, manufacturing, warehousing, IT, finance, and HR, they may not be serving the external customer, but they're serving those who are serving the external customer. So, good service on the inside gets reflected more easily on the good service outside," he stressed.
According to Kaufman, having a loyal fan base today means enjoying several advantages. "If you have customers who believe in you, and support you and recommend you, and tell you when you've messed up, and tell you when your competition is doing something that you might want to pursue as well, then none of that actually costs you budget. You can trim down your advertising budget, you can cut back on expenses and other areas, and allow your customers to help you to continue to bring business in."
He explained that it is the least expensive form of business development and business building, and it's also the one that is actually the most believed, because if a company goes out and buys more advertising, then everybody knows that it was paid for. "So you may have paid for it and gotten brand impressions, but that does not mean I believe what's in your advertising," he pointed out.

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