Henry Ford said his customers could have any color car they wanted as long as it was black. In contrast, Stew Leonard, Jr., CEO of the world’s largest dairy store in southern Connecticut, says there are only two rules in his business. Rule 1 — the customer is always right. Rule 2 – If the customer is ever wrong, reread Rule 1.
Managers in today’s organizations are being influenced by the Stew Leonards of the world. They realize that long term success is primarily achieved by satisfying the customer, because it’s the customer who ultimately pays the bills. And as we have mentioned several times so far , customers have more choices then ever before and are, therefore, more difficult to please. That is, customers are demanding quicker service, higher quality, and more value for their money. Mass customization toll free service hotlines the growth of e-commerce and mail order, discount superstores and managers who have become obsessed with quality are all responses to the concept that quality is what the customer says it is. To make this theory a reality, organization and their managers have embarked on several critical activities: creating a customer responsive culture, continuous improvements in quality, and work process engineering.
Can organizations improve customer service?
American Express recently turned Joan Weinbel’s worst nightmare into a nonevent. At 10 pm. Joan was home in New Jersey, packing for a week long trip, when she suddenly realized she had left AmEx Gold Card at a restaurant in New York City earlier in the evening. The restaurant was 30 miles away. She has a flight to catch at 7.30am the next day and she wanted her card for the trip. She called American Express. The phone was quickly answered by a courteous and helpful AmEx customer service representative. He told Ms Weinbel not to worry. He quickly asked her a few questions and told her help was on the way. To say she was flabbergasted would be an understatement when her doorbell rang at 11.’45 pm., less than two hours after she had called AmEx. At her door was a courier with a new card. How the company was able to produce the card and get it to her so quickly still puzzles Weinbel. But she said the experience made her a customer for life.
The majority of employees toady in developed countries work in service jobs. For instance, 75 percent of all private sector jobs in the United States and Canada are in service industries. In Australia, it’s 73 percent. In the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan, it’s 69, 68 and 65 percent, respectively. In India currently 27 percent of employed people work in the service sector, and these numbers are steadily rising. Some examples of these services jobs include technical support representatives, fast food counter workers, sales clerks, teachers, waiters or waitresses, consultants, credit representatives, financial planners, and flight attendants. The common characteristic of these jobs is that they require substantial interaction with an organization’s customers. And because an organization can’t exist without customers – whether that organization is Maruti Suzuki, Kotak Mahindra, Infosys, a museum, a school, or a government agency – management needs to ensure that employees do what it takes to please its customers.
Organizations in service industries need to also include attention to customer needs and requirement in assessing their effectiveness. Because in these types of business, a clear chain of cause-and-effect runs from employee attitudes and behavior to an organization’s revenues and profits. Sears, in fact, carefully documented this chain. The company’s management found that a 5 percent improvement in employee attitudes leads to a 1.3 point increase in customer satisfaction, which in turn translates into a 0.5 percent improvement in revenue growth. More specifically, Sears found that by training employees to improve the employee–customer interaction, it was able to improve customer satisfaction by 4 percent over a 12 month period, which generated as estimated $200 million in additional revenues.
Companies in India are also beginning to realize that to deliver better customer service, you have to start with better recruitment and training of your staff.