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A Five Step Process for Improving Customer Service

All businesses have customers and those customers have free will to do business anywhere they choose.  Research confirms that manufacturing customers tend to do business more where they feel satisfied with a combination of two particular areas, service and quality. 

Unfortunately, the one place mangers most often get off track is attempting to guess what satisfies their customers.  Quality is relatively to measure, the product is either to spec or it is not.  For customer service, “knowing” rather than “guessing” what customers expect is paramount for manufacturing businesses. It is extremely important for a manger to personally observe the customer experience to get a feel for what’s working and what isn’t working.  The Japanese word for this form of observation is “Gemba” which literally means the place that truth is found. 

Here is a simple five step process for improving customer service:

  1. Define the level of customer experience you want to achieve
    Do your front-line employees know what a customer is worth to the business?  For instance if a customer spends $10,000 per quarter for the next 5 years, they’re worth $200,000 to that business. Losing just 5 customers can mean losing more than a $1 million in sales. A customer’s total experience is made up of many small experiences with a supplier.  The total of all those experiences determines a happy, loyal customer or one who is lost, never to return.  Manufacturing companies generally can not compete on price alone in today’s marketplace, customer experience becomes the ultimate differentiator in making sales.
  2.  Communicate the customer service mission to employees
    Make sure all employees have learned the customer service processes.  Many companies try surveying customers; unfortunately they use they try to use the feedback in an effort to catch employees doing something wrong; whereas, rewarding positive customer service is highly effective in getting the customer service point across. Making a big deal of the top performing employee goes a long way toward communicating management support for creating stellar customer service.
  3. Monitor performance to ensure that service expectations stick
    Timely, frequent data monitoring is key to analyzing your company’s performance. Developing metrics to measure customer service and fredquently collecting data will ensure accurate information to make decisions with confidence.  Personal customer experience interviews are equally important.
  4. Generate relevant, timely performance reports with employees
    Immediately notify evaluation results to managers and employees while the experience is still fresh in their minds helsp employees be aware of current issues.  Keep continuous records over a period of time and develop a trend analysis for reporting performance.  Such vital information helps decide if the trend is a process issue or training issue and which fix to apply.  Regardless of the data type, well-managed measurement programs validate what’s really happening.
  5. Share customer feedback, give personal recognition
    Constantly communicating performance results (good & bad) creates a feedback loop to front-line employees that will reinforce the desired behaviors and your company’s commitment to high quality customer service.  Reward top employees often enough so they appreciate the gesture.

 Always remember that true understanding of your customer’s experience is business power. If you choose to improve your company’s level of service then the rewards will naturally come to your bottom line through customer retention and repeat business.  You’ll also be rewarded with new business gained through word-of-mouth.