Due to the fragile economy and the similarities of product offerings, providing quality customer service is more important than ever for maintaining and growing a company. Providing quality customer service has a much more defined meaning and is different from providing "exceptional" customer service. Exceptional customer service is usually fulfilling a customer's needs based on one particular instance that may or may not be repeated. Providing quality customer service means meeting the material as well as the emotional needs of a customer before, during and after the initial purchase or contact and having sufficient processes in place where the same level of service is provided consistently. In other words, it is adopting the quality mindset as more of the company culture and part of the normal business practice rather than the exception.
Meeting the material need is usually the easiest and the area that most companies focus on. This usually consist of replacing a damaged or failed item or taking it back and providing a refund or providing free shipping or waiving a fee. While these gestures or policies are well intended and are sometimes necessary the only meet one area of the customer's needs. The emotional needs of the customer are often overlooked and the customer walks away less than satisfied or worse yet, they leave without any reason to return or ever do business with the company again because they feel they were not treated as valued customer.
Meeting the emotion needs is where many companies fall short on meeting the customers' expectations. A lot of today's employee's have lost that commitment to the company and do not add the personal touch. In general, employees today fail to take ownership of the issue where sometimes a simple "sorry" or "we apologize for the inconvenience" can go a long way in letting the customer know that the company values them. In some part, this is a result of the companies treating the employee's as numbers by not investing in training, providing a good work environment or helping the employee understand the importance their role plays in the business process.
According to a survey of over 500 restaurant owners at the restaurantowner.com website (Survey Results: Customer Service Survey, n.d), 70% stated that is important to teach or train employees basic social skills such as smiling, eye contact, attitude and conversational skills. Another fact that drives this point is that the same survey shows that 80% of the restaurant owners stated that hiring the right person for the job was the most important part of this process. To compound these challenges a lot of companies have also been put into a position where they have had to make the hard choice of reducing staff members. Usually this means there are fewer front line, customer facing employees. The difficulty comes in when even though most people know the situation that the economy is in, they still expect a high level of customer service...