Review of Literature
Historical Background and Related State-of-the-Art Concepts
Anyone can provide customer service. It’s simple. Basically, one just have to ‘hear’ what the customer wants and be aware of their needs, and then explores many different alternatives, to come up with possible solutions to fulfill that want or need. Even better, it takes someone really special to actually ‘listen’ to provide an exceptional customer service experience; one that is of supererogatory substance, and one that goes beyond the normal call of duty. This concept can apply to all types of organizations from the sole proprietors to the business partners to the different governments and their agencies to the large corporations. No professional or business is exempt from provide quality service to their consumers or constituents. Customer service can be provided from many different media outlets. Customer service can be given from one’s very doorstep with their daily newspaper to overseas in a call center in Bangkok. One thing for sure that does hold truth is that once a customer feels valued for the money they are spending on a product or service, they will be more likely to return to that same provider and/or organization. To commence, this Literature Review pertains to the different outlooks of what customer service, the standards of customer service per industry, and the rewards of providing excellent customer service for the individual, the organization’s culture, and the customer being impacted as well. In order to better understand how important a customer service experience can affect both the company’s image and their customer perspective in both a negative or positive way, we must first understand what customer service is defined as.
There are several of different perceptions of what customer service should and should not be. To the student intern, customer service involves making a commitment to learning what the customer’s needs and wants are and finding a plan of action that will put into practice customer friendly processes and solutions beyond the customer’s expectation level. The student is a firm believer that the consumer should not be merely treated as a means to end, but as valued customer. Without any customer, an organization would not be in business. Now the student wouldn’t go as far to say that the customer is always right, but even when the customer may be wrong, their needs should be met and their understanding of the situation should be clarified. A business should always build rapport with their customer. They must establish a relationship of integrity and trust with their local community and expand from there. In “8 Rules for Good Customer Service,” Susan Ward (2010) explains how to go about forming such a relationship. She says that one can successfully accomplish this “by remembering one true secret of good customer service and acting accordingly; ‘You will be judged by what you do, not what you say.’” This is so true. Actions do speak louder the words. This applies universally throughout many general concepts as well. Sure it is wonderful to hear all the nice rewards that a business can offer someone, but it is the actually happening that will retain the customer base.
If a business truly wants to retain their customer base, they must “make their customers feel important and appreciated” (Friedman, 2010). Also in her article, Susan Friedman, writer of “The Ten Commandments of Great Customer Service, writes that being a good listener, identifying and anticipating needs, and helping the customer understand the business’ systems are great ways of providing excellent service. Some other commandments that the student intern concurs on in this article are ‘knowing how to apologize,’ ‘giving more than expected,’ and ‘treating the employees well’ (Friedman, 2010). If an applicant is someone that rarely takes responsibility for their own actions and refuses to apologize for the inflections on others then they would not make a pretty good customer service representative. Moreover, treating the employees well will more than likely transfer into the kind of service that the representative will provide to the customer base. Some of the functions that representatives perform are utilizing information to solve problems, make changes to accounts within their power, and abide by specified guidelines for requests and customer complaints. If an issue goes beyond the representative control then a representative of higher position such as supervisor or team lead may have to be consulted and inevitably, provide assistance. To ensure quality of service is being recorded, representatives are constantly be monitored, listened to by their supervisor, QA (quality assurance), and/or call center manager. Outside of call center, representatives are being watched and carefully evaluated by their higher-ups in order to ensure quality service face-to-face with a customer. Most representatives use computers, headphones, phones, and many types of software in their daily work.
Knowing the functions that they can and cannot perform can make a customer run as smoothly as possible. If a representative actively listens to a customer’s concern and knows that what this customer needs is beyond his control, he/ she will instantly know what or where to direct the customer in order to successful work toward getting that concern addressed. After actively listening to customer and the representative discovers that the concern can be resolved within their own hands, this gives the rep encouragement to do what they need to do in order to fulfill this concern. “Customer-service reps are most effective when they feel empowered to solve customer problems as they see fit, and not reprimanded for having complaints in the first place. They should be rewarded for solving problems and pleasing customers and there should be demerits when they don’t” (Spors, 2008). If a representative isn’t actively listening to the customer, then this is when the demerits should be warranted. Active listening is part of a representative position. This should never be compromised. Customers that are not being actively listened to are being neglected and not paid enough attention towards. This is unacceptable on any level, professionally or otherwise. This type of behavior would eventually lead to outsourcing of jobs to other countries to save money on the business part. “Outsourcing saves the company money, but it forces the customers to deal with people who may not speak English well” (Hammitt, 2006). This can be very frustrating for the customer and even more damaging, this may push away many customers to other competitors. Customer service should not be taken lightly. It has become more and more increasingly important to feel appreciated for one’s choice of where he/she give their money. It is not all about sales anymore, it’s the connotation that one feels when they hear or see a particular brand name when mentioned.
Each firm has their own particular customer service standards. Firms that operate effective organizations are good for developing a set of written customer service standards. Their standards serve as objectives and provide a chart in comparison on which results can be measured for future references. These standards are partly based on the customer’s needs; at least they are supposed to be. It is very necessary to know what one’s competitor is offering in relation to products, services, and incentives for both the customer and their employees. Remember, the employee are often time the frontline person or gatekeeper, the representative of the organization, and the mirror reflection of their image to the consumers. In 2000, the Revco Drug Store started a customer service program to define some improvements based on a slogan, “Every customer, every time” (Morrow, 2000). With this slogan, they implemented a three behavior process that every employee could act upon. The first behavior in this article is greeting customers every time they enter the store. So this means that if the same customer comes in the store 5 times that day, they should be spoken to by at least one of employees within the organization each and every time they came inside store. The second behavior is every time a salesperson sees a customer searching for a product; the employee is to ask the customer if they need assistance. This would show the customer that they are being paid attention to and may even give them the realization that they are in a place where the people care enough to ask. One never knows where just merely asking will get them. The last behavior in this article is to make eye contact with customers every time you speak to them. Customers are willing to pay more for better service. This company evaluates their progress with that new set of improvements by the use of mystery shoppers. Once these standards are set, there will be an on-going system of evaluation that should follow. Revco Drug Stores turned their slogan into “a way of doing business because the service standards were specially stated and then measured on a regular basis” (Morrow, 2000).