Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Putting Customer's First

Source: Investor's Business Daily - Amy Alexander

You want customers to love you, so you set service goals. You explain them in bold Powerpoint. Everyone knows the targets, so what could go wrong? Plenty.
Lior Arussy, founder and president of Strativity Group Inc., uses the term "fatal mistakes" to describe foibles that keep companies from winning over customers.
"Unless companies address and uproot these fatal mistakes, their customer inititatives will continue to fail, despite the money invested and the level of commitment demonstrated," he said in "Passionate and Profitable."
Arussy's top 10 fatal mistakes?
1. Failing to take care of existing customers.
2. Looking at customer service as surface treatment or slogan.
3. Letting passion dissolve.
4. Overcutting customer service costs.
5. Forgetting to streamline operations that help customers.
6. Rewarding eployees for speed or productivity over service.
7. Expecting change to be automatic and easy.
8. Letting leadership fall by the wayside.
9. Leaving customers behind after the sale.
10. Letting technology interfere with human contact.
Even if you've made a few mistakes, though, you can bounce back. Did.
When Mike Faith started in 1998, he and his team thought customers just wanted low prices. " We figured, like the rest in our industry, that customer service was an optional add-on," CEO Faith said. "We couldn't have been more wrong."
After struggling for the first few years, decided to focus on customer service.
"We took a long, hard look in the corporate mirror, and decided we didn't like what we saw," Faith said.
Using surveys and research, the company asked customers what they really thought.
"We immersed ourselves in the customer experience," Faith said. "We had to be the customer."
Higher-ups called their own call center. They shopped online. They had headsets shipped to their homes, then returned them to judge how smoothly things went. They did the same with the competition.
Faith noted: "Some of the shortfallings in our service were immediately apparent."
Customers had to wait too long to talk to a person. E-mail support was overly automated.
Change took place by way of reachable but powerful, goals.
"We answered every phone call with four rings," Faith said. Customers could choose how they got in touch with the company, either by e-mail, online chats or phone. The company started paying reps more than the industry average. It screened staff carefully, seeking warmth and personality.
Faith stood by the company's new commitment. He even included his direct telephone number and e-mail with all marketing materials.
"It says, ' We're accountable,' one of our internal mantras," Faith said.
Renewed emphasis on customer care has paid off. Sales at have increased sharply over the last two years.


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