Usually, the question; what does the phrase Customer Service mean to you, gets reserved for interviews. However, I feel like this is more of an essential question for the people who work in and manage customer service departments. That’s why, in this article, we are going to take a look at what it means to people, and why it is crucial. So, the direct definition of customer service is this: The assistance and advice provided by a company to those people who buy or use its products or services. Now, that is a very vague answer if you ask me. There are no levels or further definitions of the two main keywords, advice, and assistance. How can anyone tell you what customer service is if there is no real definition? If you have ever asked this question to a possible employee, then you are likely to have heard many answers. While all of those may be correct to some degree, they are often their own experiences and feelings about customer service. Not to mention, they are often saying what they think you want to hear. Here is one example of an answer that I would expect to hear: “Customer service is serving the customer to the best of my abilities to get the issue resolved as quickly as possible.” While this may be an acceptable answer, it is still quite vague. It does not give any indication of what issues may be faced. Nor does it take into account any of the standard variables.
What Variables Are there in Customer Service?There are a lot of variables when it comes to customer service. However, for this article, we will group those into a few sections:
- The Customer
- The Contact Circumstance
- The Service Provider
- The Outcome
The Customer in Customer ServiceThe customer is what service must revolve around. They are the beginning, middle, and end to the company mission. All companies have a purpose. Whether it is to provide fast food to the public or sell aircraft to airlines, or anything between them. You need to know what the customer wants. There is no use giving a customer something that they do not wish to. If you have an issue that you require a solution to, you want a solution that suits you, not the providing company. You can not look at customers as a whole entity. They are individuals. They are you and I. We all require service at one point or another. Therefore, we must take the time to see what exactly makes the customer tick. A few of the things that need to think of are:
- The customer’s requirements and individual circumstances at the point of contact are one of the foremost essential factors to successful Customer Service. Becoming in touch with them, being empathetic and understanding.
- Customers have personal emotions behind the reason for contact. That can range from the excitement of getting a new product or service, right through to pure frustration that the product or service is not working as they expected.
- They also have personal emotions that may have nothing to do with the reason for contact, but will play a part in their actions and reactions. When they are cross, they might feel like they have a right to be cross.
The Contact CircumstanceThe contact circumstance is something that the customer service department rarely knows the specifics about before the contact. There are usually a few main reasons that you gain connection, however. Therefore, knowing some of the circumstances will significantly increase your customer service. Now we are going to take a look at some of those circumstances:
- Favorable Circumstances are always going to be the best ones to complete well. When a customer has a compliment for a service or product, it is straightforward. Likewise, when that person is a potential customer and is determined to buy a service or product that you provide.
- Neutral Circumstances are probably the rarest type of contact that you will encounter during customer service. This type of communication is usually only to try and confirm something that the customer already knows and is OK with, such as verifying that phone calls to landlines are free after 7 pm, for example.
- Unfavorable Circumstances will be the majority of calls made to customer services. These circumstances are an unfortunate reality of customer service. They are the hardest to deal with, and the way that you deal with them is what gives a lasting impression.
The Service ProviderThe service provider is the person on the other side of a counter or the other end of the phone. It is your responsibility to deal with the above two points. Not only do you have to deal with them, but you also have to do it efficiently and up to the standards required by the customer and the company. Just like the other factors that we have looked at so far, the service provider has some variables too:
- Personal abilities to control their own emotion. This control is often harder than it sounds at first. You may think that it is easy to just read from a script. However, not all customer services have strict guidelines on scenarios. Not forgetting that the customer has no script at all. They will say what they want and when they want.
- Training will always be a big part of any customer service. I would have put this at the top of the list; however, some people can be representatives, whereas some people need a lot of training. Training will always be required, though, no matter how well you can interact with people. There are requirements from the customer and the company that will change from one job to the next.
- Service Providers Personal Circumstances are the same as the customer’s circumstances. If the operative has had a bad day, their reactions are likely to reflect that. Likewise, if they have had a good day, it is also expected to be noticeable.
The OutcomeThe outcome of customer service interactions is one of the top two things that need to be right. We will go through the reason that it is in the top two below:
- Positive outcomes are going to be the best, of course. These are the most satisfying to both the customer and the operative. They are the best outcomes for returning customers, and also new business. When you have happy customers, you will get more customers.
- Neutral outcomes are as rare as neutral circumstances. It is highly likely that you will only have neutral results with neutral situations.
- Adverse outcomes will be the worst that you will come across. In reality, a favorable result is not always going to be achievable. However, if you carry out all of the other steps well, then even a negative outcome can be taken not too severely.