John Tschohl is a recognized customer service expert drawing from years of experience sharing methodologies, tips and best practices. This is one in a series of articles from John that we will feature in the Expert Corner on the Desk.com blog.
Many successful companies see the value in getting to know your customer. Anybody can lower prices, but get to know your customer and give him something worthwhile, like service that treats him or her in a personal, individual, sincerely concerned manner, and he or she will gladly pay the asking price and return to buy again and again.
Aligning service strategy with customer expectations
Start to develop a service strategy by completing an assessment of your company’s service status and needs. You can get to know your customer by understanding what is important to their different customer segments and what their level of expectation is. Other organizations first evaluate their own performance. They may discover glaring shortcomings in their efforts to fulfill customer expectations.
Why is it so important to understand your different customer groups and tailor an optimal mix and level of service for them? Provide too little service or the wrong kind and customers may switch to the competition. Provide too much service, even the right kind, and your company might price itself out of the market and struggle to balance the books at the end of the year.
The job of bringing service strategy in line with customer expectations is basically the same as positioning a company or product in the marketplace. Service positioning starts with four givens:
- The segments targeted
- Expectations of customers within those segments
- Strategy for exceeding expectations
- Expectations of service level that has already been created by competitors in the minds of your customers (the goal is to exceed these expectations)
What a service strategy looks like
A service strategy is the foundation for a service plan and includes a strong vision of the values of service to your organization. A service strategy also:
- Describes your customers
- Reports their evaluations of different aspects of service
- Estimates budget for achieving customer satisfaction
- Projects profit increases
Without a strategy it’s difficult to develop a concept of service that rallies employees … or arrests conflicts between corporate strategy and actual customer service … or to come up with ways to measure service performance and perceived quality.
What a service plan includes
The service plan is how you will execute your service strategy by customer segment and product/service. Here are some guidelines for making decisions about the features of your service plan:
- Under-promise and over-deliver; set customer expectations at the right level
- Research customer needs thoroughly; only the customer knows what he or she wants
- Segment the market and design core products and core services to meet the needs of the customer base; not all customers who buy the same service or product have the same service needs
- Continue to drive the plan strategically
Being strategic about service is your competitive advantage
A major weakness of many businesses is leadership’s lack of a customer service strategy. Members of the C-suite fail to realize the strategic opportunity of using service as a vehicle to build market share and market dominance. In fact, a service strategy should always be part of an organization’s marketing strategy. And a service plan should be an essential part of every marketing plan, so that a new product or service is never launched until customer service has been thought out and tested.