What is customer service?

103Customer service is dedicated to taking care of the customer’s wants and needs by providing a professional, high quality service before, during, and after the customer’s interaction with the company.

It aims to ensure customer satisfaction with a product or service, and their continuing relationship with the company.

Customer service is also about creating a positive experience for clients whenever they interact with a company and so is vital to a company’s reputation. It’s not just about reacting to your customers, but is also about anticipating, understanding and defining what they really want – even when they’re not sure themselves- and then delivering it seamlessly. It’s about anticipating and meeting their needs and desires.

Excellence in Customer Service is measured against the customers’ expectations, and to some extent defining your service standard is an exercise in managing those expectations .If a company ensures that enquiries are responded to within 3 days, but the customer expects a reply within 24 hours, then they will not regard that as good service. If they know the standard is 3 days, but get a response in 24 hours, their perception will be different.

Customer service takes place during a transaction, which could be making a purchase or returning an item. It can also take the form of a personal interaction, a phone call, a self-service system, or by other means such as a website transaction. One of the most high profile sources of customer service now is the call centre.

Customer service department

Many companies employ customer service representatives, yet it is the staff who interact directly with customers that form their perception of the company.

The customer service department is the part of a business that specifically deals with enhancing customer satisfaction. This department will deal with customer problems caused by product defects or the product’s misuse, or poor service.

Customer service is an important part of establishing and maintaining customer relationships, which is the key to continuing revenue for any business. Many companies work hard to increase their customer satisfaction levels.

Satisfied, repeat customers can be a company’s most valuable asset, although that value is difficult to quantify.

Why is customer service important?

It costs five times as much to gain a new customer as it does to retain an existing one. Good customer service should minimise customer complaints and dissatisfaction. A central aim of customer service is customer retention .It can also produce referrals and improve staff morale.

For customers, the quality of customer service is often the most visible and significant aspect of their interaction with a company. The standard of customer service they experience makes a significant impression on them. It plays a large part in determining whether they buy from a company, what they say to friends and family about the business, and whether they remain a customer. Poor customer service, even an unfortunate conversation with a call-centre, may cause people to stop using a business, even if the quality and value of the product or service itself is satisfactory.

The customer service team is the face of the company. Its customers’ experiences will be defined by the skill and quality of the support they are given. It is a key factor in establishing a company’s reputation and brand.

A bad customer experience at any point in the interaction with the customer can ruin their relationship with the company. Management need to be sure the right skills are being demonstrated consistently throughout the full process, not only at key touchpoints. They need to have an understanding of the customer experience, or risk lapses in service that can damage the business.

Excellent customer service should help a company to improve their competitiveness, differentiate their company, build customer loyalty, increase retention, attract new customers by referral, and reduce or eradicate complaints.

What is a customer charter?

This is the statement that informs the customer of the standard of service they can expect from an organisation. It should also advise them what action to take if something goes wrong, and how to contact the company. It is a statement of the company’s intentions and expectations, but does not form part of the contract with the customer.

For example there may be factors outside the company’s control, where they depend on a fulfilment partner or third party such as a mail service. The charter needs to instil confidence, but not overpromise, particularly when other party’s performance is concerned.