Sometimes I think “customer service," as a term, has been so overused that it's lost much of its meaning.
In a lot of instances, we pay lip service to good customer service, but we don't think about how deeply it is woven into every aspect of our businesses. In fact, lapses in customer service can shine a light on very real business risks—the parts of our company we may be neglecting.
If there are issues with the following six areas in your business, you may want to look at your customer service.
1. Customer Retention
Alienated customers cost your company money. If you're failing at customer service so badly that you're shedding customers, it's going to cost you…big time.
In general, it costs far more to acquire new customers than it does to keep existing ones. Losing customers is perhaps the biggest, brightest red flag you can imagine, and you need to intervene immediately.
2. Interdepartmental Problems
Customer service difficulties can reveal interdepartmental problems. Resolving customer complaints is a critical customer service function, and delivering great customer service often requires an employee to reach across a number of departments within a company.
Businesses that have rigid silos (i.e. departments that operate independently) may have difficulties in satisfying customers if employees can't get information or access they need.
While there are benefits to having independent departments, there are also risks. From duplicated work to increased errors and the lack of collaboration, customer service challenges can reveal the risks of silos in your company.
3. Unresolved Conflicts
Challenges may be magnified. Conflict and tension are part of any workplace. Savvy leaders can manage conflict and even wring productivity from it.
But unresolved conflicts and resentment in your business can bubble up at the very worst moment—in a customer service scenario. If there's dirty laundry, the last place you want that aired is in front of a customer.
Empowering your employees to resolve customer complaints and satisfy customer needs can mean quicker, more effective customer service and less bottlenecks in service.
When you're struggling with conflict, employee motivation, understaffing or even cash-flow difficulties, those problems can seem catastrophic when they begin to affect customer service. It's far better to manage challenges before they start interfering with your ability to deliver great customer service.
4. Employee Satisfaction
Empowerment is vital, and works here in two senses. First, if your employees are empowered as decision makers, then they're far more likely to be engaged and highly productive. Empowerment breeds personal responsibility, and when employees feel like their success is linked to the company's success, they tend to work harder and with better results.
Second, the last thing a disgruntled customer wants is to be handed off to another employee. Empowering your employees to resolve customer complaints and satisfy customer needs can mean quicker, more effective customer service and less bottlenecks in service.
While operational transparency, in general, is a good thing, there are risks. After all, nobody really wants to see the sausage being made.
That said, customer service can help highlight areas where your operations aren't as transparent as they should be. Whether you're talking about the average customer journey or supply chain matters, customer service hiccups can point to problems in your operations.
6. Customer Acquisition
Are you reaching your ideal customer?
Customer service difficulties can result from any number of problems, and one of those is a failure to connect with the right clientele.
If customers aren't satisfied with the value of what you're offering, it might be that you're slacking in that department. Or it could be that you just haven't found the people who appreciate what you're offering. When there's a measurable disconnect, it may indicate that you need to step up or branch out in your marketing. Or it might demonstrate that you need to refine your offerings to suit the clients you already have. In either case, customer feedback shows you when you're missing the mark.
What is great customer service? It's service that retains customers, that consistently meets or exceeds expectations. It's also a bellwether of sorts, indicating which companies are actively mitigating business risks.
Customer service shines a spotlight on various aspects of your company, and it rarely fails to illuminate—or even magnify—your flaws. Fortunately, using your successes and failures in customer service can help you mitigate critical business risks.
Read more articles on customer relations.
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