What IS Good Customer Service?

So what is good customer service? Based on Larry Wood’s experience at Robert E. Nolan Company, Management Consultants, there are some common themes.

For example, good customer service is:

  • Having an internal environment that is committed to customer service—a true service culture as demonstrated by the statements, actions, and behaviors of the organization’s leaders.
  • Being available to customers when they want to do business. Increasingly, this means longer business hours, often approaching 24/7/365 coverage. It also means being available immediately, without extensive delays, wait times, or queues.
  • Providing points of contact that are convenient to customers. Points of contact include face-to-face encounters, the telephone, the Internet, and the mail. The key here is not to select one means of communication as the sole strategy, but to provide access in all the ways your customers want to do business.
  • Having access to all customer information and accounts at the point of contact with the customer.
  • Being able to complete/resolve customers’ requests and issues in one transaction a high percentage of the time.
  • Having regular measures of customer service levels and customer satisfaction.
  • Taking immediate action to resolve lapses in the customer service process.

Good customer service is not:

  •  Having a published but underachieved customer service strategy.
  •  Bending rules and policies to make customers happy.
  •  Handling problems and complaints very well. (Good customer service is about avoiding problems and complaints.)
  •  Apologizing repeatedly for service lapses.
  •  Trying to solve service problems with technology alone.
  •  Measuring the performance of services with anecdotal, complimentary letters from customers.

These lists may seem like common sense, offering few new insights. The fact is that many companies lose sight of these fundamentals when they implement new processes, technology, and policy changes. A good way to remain focused on customer service objectives is to measure the outcomes of customer contact transactions.

Measuring the effectiveness of the components of customer service entails a multi-level analysis. It includes measures of the mechanics of the process (such as call center metrics of wait time and call abandonment), review of technology performance (system availability and performance), monitoring of customer service representative interactions with customers, and periodic surveys of customer satisfaction.

Excellent customer service and customer satisfaction with service transactions are essential components of customer retention. Studies have shown that small improvements in customer satisfaction translate directly into higher profitability because the cost of retaining existing customers is much lower than the cost of acquiring new ones.