Customer Service: It Will Make or Break Your Business

By Debra Thompson

In an age of competitive fever and instant communication, customers have learned to expect the world. Remarkably, the great new customer service providers are giving them that and more. Although good statistics are hard to come by, studies show that customers are demanding better service in general. Roland Rust, a marketing professor at the University of Maryland and co-author of last year's "Dividing Customer Equity", says that companies increasingly see the link between great customer service and "retention, loyalty, and increased sales."

However, as we move into the era of "tier Zero," the latest buzzword, which refers to a customer service system that's so proactive that it anticipates a customer's every need, it's clear that the overall quality of customer service continues to deteriorate.

I think this is ironic when you consider the huge challenge any company faces today trying to differentiate itself in the marketplace. When you think about it, many of the core products have been turned into commodities. Providing state-of-the-art customer service is one of the few means left for a company to help itself stand out from the crowd.

Think about how you respond as a consumer to great customer service. I personally give them all of my business, and I become their ambassador. I in turn end up telling everyone I know about this great business and recommend everyone to go there.

On the other hand, when I receive poor customer service, I become a rebel. I pull my business and make sure I discourage everyone from going there.

To me great customer service isn't about being able to fix your mistakes faster than the next guy, nor does it mean that it necessarily always requires that human touch. It is about ensuring that customers experience a uniformly high level of service throughout their interaction with your company.

Keywords here are uniformly high-level of service throughout. To provide this type of service consistently, you must have a competent, stable, well-led workforce. Period.

To have a competent workforce you need:

  • The right people with the right personality for their position.
  • Their Wonderlic score should meet the minimum benchmark score for the position.
  • Training - an enormous amount of time and money is needed to educate and train everyone on staff.

To have a stable workforce you need to:

  • Address retention issues—what do you need to do to keep top performers?
  • Have the "internal customer" mindset throughout the entire organization.

To have a well-led workforce, top management needs to:

  • Continually develop and enhance leadership skills.
  • Work more on the business, rather than in the business.
  • Transition from a doer to a manager of doers.

Without baseline essentials in place, it will be a constant struggle to provide the uniformly high-level of customer service that customers have come to expect.

This blog was originally published in the newsletter "TG's Notes". For a free subscription to "TG's Notes" , click here.