Customer Service Management: Guidelines and Resources

Sections of this topic

    Customer Service Management: Guidelines and Resources

    © Copyright Carter
    McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC

    Although there is a conventional difference between the terms “customer”
    and “client,” this topic refers to “customers” as meaning
    both. Also, although a product is a tangible offering and a service is an intangible
    offering, this topic often refers to “products” as meaning both. The
    activities of customer service apply to any type and size of organization, so
    the term “organization” refers to that wide variety. Before reading
    this topic, you might read about the Relationship
    Between Managing Supply Chain, Operations, Quality, Customer Relationships and
    Customer Service

    Sections of This Topic Include

    Understanding Customers and Service

    Why is Great Customer Service More Important Than Ever?
    What is a Customer? Consumer? Client?
    Types of Customers
    Types of Customer Needs
    What Customer Really Value
    What is Customer Service?

    Preparing for Providing Great Customer Service

    Create a Customer Service Management Plan
    Begin Changing Your Organization’s Culture
    Train Your Employees About Customer Service

    Satisfying Your Customers

    Clearly Identify Customers’ Needs
    Meet Customers’ Needs
    Get Customers’ Feedback
    Measure Customers’ Satisfaction

    Retaining Your Customers

    Retain Customers
    Manage Customer Complaints
    Manage Customer Relationships
    Evaluate Your Customer Service Management System

    General Resources

    Additional Perspectives on Customer Service
    Glossaries About Customer Service


    Why is Great Customer Service More
    Important Than Ever?

    In the past, an organization was expected to provide a product or service to
    the customer, and then that transaction was done — the activity was done to
    the customer. The customer was more or less at the mercy of the organization.

    Today, that is changing dramatically. Customers have a much wider range of
    organizations, products and services to choose from, and they can access them
    instantly. Customers can also access numerous sources of useful opinions or
    reviews about the product or service even before they buy them.

    Thus, it is more important than ever that organizations remain very good at
    attracting, satisfying and retaining customers. Customer service has moved beyond
    being merely transactional to being highly relational.

    What is a Customer? Consumer? Client?

    Before we continue, we should get clear on what we are talking about. Different
    terms mean different things to different people. Here is a broad and useful
    definition of customer:

    • “In sales, commerce and economics, a customer (sometimes known as a
      client, buyer, or purchaser) is the recipient of a good, service, product
      or an idea – obtained from a seller, vendor, or supplier via a financial transaction
      or exchange for money or some other valuable consideration.” Wikipedia

    A customer becomes a consumer once the recipient begins to use the product
    or service. A client is a recipient who buys services from an organization,
    particularly a professional service. For example, nonprofit organizations typically
    use the term “client” to refer to anyone who benefits from their products
    and services.

    Types of Customers

    The topic of customers and customer service can seem so broad that it is difficult
    to get a good grasp on understanding them and how to best serve them. It helps
    a great deal to understand that there are different types of customers. You
    should recognize them, prioritize them and use that ranking in your product
    development, sales, marketing and customer service.
    Types of Customers
    5 Types of
    Customers and How to Approach Them (Pt1)
    7 Types of Customers
    and How to Convert Each of Them
    The 11 Universal
    Types of Customers You Need to Know

    Organizations can have internal and external customers. An example of a internal
    customer is a department in an organization that receives services from another
    department. For example, the Human Resource Department might get its budget
    managed — that is, serviced — by the Finance Department. An example of an
    external customer is a person who buys shoes from a shoe store.

    Types of Customer Needs

    Your organization, regardless of its type or size, cannot survive unless it
    is meeting the needs of its customers. There is a saying in marketing that customers
    come to a product or service based on what they want, but they stay based on
    what they need.

    However, there is a vast array of different types of needs that different types
    of customers have. Also, customers’ needs can change rapidly as they grapple
    to adapt to a rapidly changing world.

    Similar to knowing the types of customers above, it helps to understand the
    different overall types of needs that they have. What different types (segments)
    of customers do you have based on their different needs? What types of needs
    are each of your products and services meeting for each segment? What types
    do you want to serve instead or in addition to?
    16 Types of Customer
    Needs (and How to Solve for Them)
    Six Basic Needs of Customers
    Four Needs of a Customer
    19 Types of Customer

    What Customers Value

    There is a difference between knowing the typical needs of customers compared
    to actually meeting their needs. To begin meeting those needs, it is important
    to consider what different types of customers typically value in meeting their
    own needs. To some customers, value is the lowest price. To others, value represents
    prestige. To others, it represents long-lasting quality. What do your customers
    value the most from the products and services? How does that value differentiate
    you from your competitors? Write your unique
    value proposition
    Customer Value:
    What is Customer Value?
    30 Things Your Customers Value Most
    Value (Marketing)
    Harvard Business Review Top 30 Customer Values
    Types of Value a Product Offers to a Customer

    What is Customer Service?

    In the past, customer service usually meant being understanding and courteous
    to your customers while they were buying your product. However, today’s customers
    are much more demanding and competition is much stronger. Consequently, it is
    much more useful to consider customer service to be the type of support that
    you offer before, during and after your customers buy from you. Many companies
    today are highly competitive primarily because of the very high quality of their
    customer service.
    is Customer Service?
    Customer Service
    4 Types of Customer Service and How to Use Them
    7 Types
    of Customer Service: Pros and Cons
    Types Of Customers Services – Customer Service Channels


    The implementation of the guidelines in each this section should be managed
    by an Implementation Team comprised of at least one member from general management,
    and management in the functions of sales, marketing and customer service.

    Create a Customer Service Management Plan

    Be Systematic in Your Planning

    Strong customer service is so vital to the surviving — and thriving — of
    your organization that it should not be done in a reactive and sporadic approach.
    Instead, it needs to be done proactively from a well designed customer service
    management plan. Think about the

    1. Inputs to the system, such as best practices in customer service, sales
      and marketing; computer technologies; funding; and human resources
    2. Ongoing processes to sustain great customer service, such as clarifying
      customers’ needs, meeting or exceeding those needs, getting feedback, managing
      complaints, and overall managing customer relationships
    3. Outputs from the system, such as useful reports about customers’ needs and
      activities, and more highly skilled employees in providing customer service
    4. Outcomes, the greatest of all including increased customer satisfaction
      and loyalty

    Establish Customer Service Goals

    1. Consider your organization’s overall strategic priorities. For example,
      does your organization want especially to increase sales and profits, increase
      impact in the community (if yours is a nonprofit), expand marketshare and/or
      reduce customer complaints?
    2. Then consider the different types of customers that you have (market segments)
      and how you want to manage each differently in order to help achieve your
      organization’s goals. For example, do you want to focus even more on the most
      profitable customers? Reduce the types that generate the least revenues? Expand
      marketing to new customers to expand marketshare?
    3. Then consider where to focus in your customer service activities in each
      group. For example, better tools to get feedback from customers, starting
      a call center, starting a new customer service manager position and/or use
      more social media?

    Be Realistic In Your Planning

    Especially if yours is a small to medium-sized organization, or if this is
    your first time in being focused and intentional about customer service, then
    be very realistic about your planning. For the first draft of your plan, focus
    on its most basic elements and then embellish the plan as you implement the
    plan during its first year.
    Service Business Plan Template
    Your Business Needs a Customer Service Plan
    Steps to Creating a Superior Customer Service Plan
    to Create a Customer Service Plan
    to Create a Customer Service Plan

    Also see
    How to
    Do to Planning

    Begin Changing Your Organization’s Culture

    Great customer service is a mindset. It is a way of thinking, prioritizing
    and planning about customers in an organization. It guides how decisions are
    made and how problems are solved regarding customers. When many people in an
    organization have that mindset, then the organization has a customer service
    and customer-centric culture. In that culture, organizations always “partner”
    with customers to ensure a great customer experience — they always solicit
    feedback from customers in order to exceed their expectations.

    Research shows that long-lasting, successful change in an organization usually
    requires a change in its culture. Unless the culture begins to change, it does
    not matter how much advice and many tools that the organization gets. A change
    in culture will determine whether they are actually used or not.
    Exactly is a Service Culture?
    To Create A Customer Service Culture
    Ways to Create a Customer Service Culture
    Does the Term “Service Culture” Mean & How Do Companies Develop
    a Service Culture?
    How to
    Build a Strong Customer Service Culture (Without Copying Disney)

    Also see

    Team Building

    Train Your Employees About Customer Service

    Strong customer service requires well developed knowledge and expertise. It
    requires skills in building
    , having empathy
    for others, listening,
    asking thoughtful questions
    and sharing feedback.
    These skills do not come easily for most people. Therefore, arrange highly practical
    trainings for your employees — trainings that match their busy schedules and
    trainings that include practice sessions.
    Ultimate Guide to Training for Customer Service & Support
    to Train Staff On Good Customer Service: Tips for Managers
    How to Train
    Your Employees in Customer Service
    Customer Service Training Tips Your Employees Need To Learn
    Tips for Effective Customer Service Training

    Also see
    Training and Development


    Clearly Identify Customers’ Needs

    One of the biggest mistakes that an organization can make is to assume that
    all of its customers are the same. The power of excellent sales, marketing and
    customer service comes from realizing that different types of customers have
    different types of needs. Do you have different groups of customers who have
    different needs? How do you know? Do some need prompt provision of products
    rather than ordering online? Self-maintainance rather than ongoing support?
    Basic functionality rather than high-quality? Consider the different groups
    to be different market segments.
    Your Customers’ Needs
    Methods for Identifying Customer Needs
    and Meeting Customer Needs
    Customer Needs
    Questions to Ask Your Customers to Know Their Needs and Expectations

    Also see
    to Conduct Market Research

    Meet Customers’ Needs

    Different market segments have different needs. They have different interpretations
    of value — of what will meet their needs. To remain viable, your organization
    has to be meeting the different needs of its different market segments. How
    do you best meet the needs of each different market segments? How do you know?
    Customers’ Needs Are Changing. Are You Keeping Up?
    Focus First On Meeting
    Customers’ Needs, Not On Delighting Them
    is Customer Value and How Can You Create It?
    Customer Value: What it Means
    and How to Create It
    Customers Have These 30 Needs. Are You Meeting Them?

    Also see
    to Conduct Market Research

    Product and
    Service Development

    Get Customers’ Feedback

    The way to ensure that your organization is meeting the needs of its customers
    comes especially from their feedback. According to Barb
    , there are many different ways to ask: post-purchase and post-support
    surveys, enclosures in the monthly invoice, follow-up phone calls and quarterly
    or annual surveys. Each different market segment might prefer different measures.
    How are you getting feedback from each of your different groups of customers?
    Is feedback actively solicited or informally collected? What are you hearing
    from each different market segment? How do you respond to what you are hearing?
    Reasons Why Customer Feedback Is Important To Your Business
    Customer Feedback Strategy:
    The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need
    to Get Quality Customer Feedback – 20 Effective Methods
    Top 25 Ways
    to Get Customer Feedback from the Pros
    Types of Customer Satisfaction Surveys

    Also see
    of Conducting Focus Groups

    to Give Useful Feedback and Advice
    Guidelines for Conducting Interviews

    Measure Customers’ Satisfaction

    There are numerous different ways to measure the satisfaction of your customers.
    The challenge with specifying key measures is that not all businesses will use
    the same metrics. According to Barb
    , for call centers, support, and service desks, first call resolution
    is the Holy Grail. For a shipping operation, product delivery and project implementation,
    on-time performance is the measuring stick. In a high transaction business,
    the first interaction with a customer will be a key determinant of whether the
    customer will return. How should you measure satisfaction for each of your different
    market segments? How do you know?
    Top 5 Customer Service Metrics

    to Measure Customer Satisfaction?
    to Measure Customer Satisfaction, and Why It’s So Important
    Proven Methods for Measuring Customer Satisfaction
    Why and How to Measure Customer Satisfaction

    Also see
    to Design Successful Evaluation and Assessment Plans


    Retain Customers

    It is conventional wisdom among experienced marketers that one existing customer
    is worth five new ones. Bain
    & Company
    found that, “increasing customer retention by just 5
    percent can increase profits by 25 percent to 95 percent.” Yet, conventional
    wisdom is also that a typical business loses around 20% of its customers per

    There are a variety of strategies to help retain your customers, as included
    in the articles listed below. Retention is primarily a result of customer
    . What should you be doing to retain the customers in each of your
    different market segments? How do you know?
    What is Customer
    The Ultimate
    Guide to Customer Retention
    Customer Retention Strategies
    17 Awesome
    Customer Retention Strategies That Work
    Customer Retention Strategies to Implement Today

    Manage Customers’ Complaints

    While some organizations consider customer complaints to be signs of failure,
    others see them as opportunities to learn from. Also, research suggests that
    customers who experience prompt resolution to their complaints often are some
    of the most loyal customers. However, there are some best practices in handling
    complaints that you should be aware of. How are you handling complaints to each
    of your different market segments? Is that the best approach for each? How do
    you know?
    Customer Complaints Are Good For Your Business
    The New Rules of Handling Customer Complaints
    a Complaint Handling Procedure
    Customer Complaints

    to Create Your Own Customer Complaint Process

    Manage Customer Relationships

    You can understand why the most important aspect between your organization
    and its customers is the quality of the relationship between the organization
    and its customers. That quality determines how loyal your customers are to your
    organization. Fortunately, there has been an increasing amount of research about
    best practices to manage the relationships. The field has come to be known as
    Relationship Management (CRM
    ). Various software packages make it much easier
    to collect, organize and reference a vast range of information about customers.
    CRM has been proven to increase the number of customers and profitability for
    CRM 101: What is CRM?
    What is Customer Relationship
    Management (CRM)?
    Relationship Management Tutorial
    The Beginner’s Guide
    to CRM: Customer Relationship Management
    The Top Reasons CRM Software

    Evaluate Your Customer Service Management

    Evaluation should be done while you are working to satisfy your customers and
    to retain them. Periodically, you should stand back and evaluate your progress
    in achieving the various goals that you had established for your customer service
    management system.

    Be sure to use the learning from your evaluation activities to improve the
    next round of the planning of your customer service management system. In that
    way, you are indeed treating your customer service as a recurring system of
    aligned and highly integrated activities.
    Most Effective KPIs To Evaluate Customer Service Performance
    11 Customer
    Service Metrics that Really Matter To Your Business
    to Evaluate Customer Service
    to Evaluate a Customer Service Representative
    Do You Measure Customer Service Success?

    Also see
    to Design Successful Evaluation and Assessment Plans

    General Resources

    Additional Perspectives on Customer

    Customer Service Tips
    How to Manage Client Expectations After You Close a Sale
    Do Your Customers Deserve a Bill of Rights?

    Beware of Letting Competitors Distract You From Customers!
    Customer Service or Torture?
    Six Critical Steps to Training High-Quality Customer Service…
    6 Tips to Delivering Customer Value (a Leadership Challenge)
    Customer Service Answers You Can’t Do Without
    Companies Think They Are Too Smart for Customer Service

    Customer Service in the Land Where it Really Counts

    Key Training Ideas for Your Customer Service Program

    Glossaries About Customer Service

    Service Glossary: Words and Phrases to Know
    Service Glossary


    Customer Service Institute of America
    International Customer Service Association
    National Customer Service Association
    American Customer Service Management Association
    SOCAP International

    Learn More in the Library’s Blog Related to Customer Service and Satisfaction

    In addition to the articles on this current page, also see the following blog
    that has posts related to Customer Service and Satisfaction. Scan down the blog’s
    page to see various posts. Also see the section “Recent Blog Posts”
    in the sidebar of the blog or click on “next” near the bottom of a
    post in the blog. The blog also links to numerous free related resources.

    Customer Service Blog

    For the Category of Customer Service and Satisfaction:

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