One of the major weaknesses of most organisations is the top management’s lack of a service strategy. They fail to realise the strategic opportunity on how to use superior service as a vehicle to build market share and market dominance. This article appears in Africa Print Journal.
Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, one of the most powerful retailers in the world, built a service role model. Walton built Walmart on customer service. They are now known for price only. I always had trouble understanding why the new management for Walmart has eliminated the customer experience and has simply focused on price alone. When organisations know what is important to their customers and when they realise the shortcomings of their current service, then they are ready to write a Service Plan.
Along came Amazon. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO is officially the world’s richest person as of November 2017. He built his company to become far and away the most trusted and well-liked brand (this is according to a survey conducted by The Verge in partnership with consulting firm Reticle Research).
Consumers trust Amazon and freely give them personal details about what they purchase and data about their interests. The one thing that is claimed by most customers is, by far, that Amazon has the best customer service of any company they have ever dealt with. Customers have said that they only had to explain half the problem for Amazon to solve 200% of it.
Bezos has been responsible for creating over 100,000 new full-time jobs over the past year for the American economy and is on schedule to create more with the new ventures he is working on. He definitely has a working Service Plan.
Use these guidelines in making decisions about the features of your service plan:
• Under-promise and over-deliver. Set customer expectations at the right level. As defined by McGraw-Hill, 'under promise and over deliver' is a service strategy in which service providers strive for excellent customer service and satisfaction by doing more than they say they will for the customer or exceeding customer expectations. Deliver on your promises. Don’t make a promise you can’t keep and keep the ones you make.
• Only the customer knows what he or she wants.
• Make it easy to do business with your company.
• Customers want speedy service.
• Customers want to talk to a real live person.
• Return phone calls immediately.
• Communicate, communicate, communicate. Not all customers who buy the same service or product have the same service needs. Be like Amazon and have a relentless focus on customer service through regular communication, and make sure you can deliver on their individual needs.
• Continue to drive the plan strategically. According to Bezos, 'Focus on the things that don’t change'. Bezos built Amazon around things he knew would be stable over time, investing heavily in ensuring that Amazon would provide those things — and improve its delivery of those things. (Inc.com Nov. 6, 2017).
Management must drive a customer service programme with continuous training for all employees with reinforcement by means of rewards for high- performing service employees, and with management standards that are regularly reinforced.
When management is committed to customer service by daily word and deed, the result is a well-established infrastructure that facilitates free communication interchange internally and that yields organisational 'culture'.
Long-term strategy must be developed and then implemented by hardheaded analysis, talented management of people, intense concentration and commitment, and serious spending.
As essential as strategy, objectives and support systems (infrastructure) are a foundation for a service plan, the entire programme probably would wilt like an unwatered lily without (1) a corporate culture to sustain it and (2) a chief executive who is just as committed to customer satisfaction as he is to stockholder satisfaction.