Your Customer ServiceAudit Will Help You Determine Whether Your Version Of Customer Care And Handling Is Making Customers Increasingly Loyal, Or Run LikeRats From A Burning Barn.

In the final analysis, the most valuable asset any business has is its list of satisfied customers. So your customer service audit will evaluate your method of customer care to determine whether it is enhancing your asset base, or destroying it. If it is destroying it, you will need to create and implement remedial strategies.

Customer service should not be confused with quality control, although they interrelate considerably. Quality control deals with providing the customer with what was promised, and what he expects from you. Quality control is critical, but sometimes it fails, or isn't quite enough.

Customer service, and your customer service audit deals with the experience that your business provides your customer in each and every interaction. It starts with the person answering the telephone, or in other ways having initial contact with a customer. In many ways receptionists and switchboard operators are overlooked opportunities in customer service. Everyone remembers when one of these is difficult, arrogant, ignorant, or otherwise unhelpful.

And consider the experience with a phone system that has no operator, including the time wasted in getting to speak to someone live who can actually help. In the recent past businesses acted like sheep, all going in the direction of eliminating the switchboard operator. They congratulated themselves on the money they saved. Many have now returned to a manned switchboard. The money saved was insignificant compared to the numbers of customers alienated.

Customer service involves how your business deals with customers when they have a problem. When the quality control system failed to deliver the product or service that was promised and/or expected. It also involves dealing with customer questions about how to use some aspect of a product or process that they bought from you.

Your customer service audit is unlikely to reveal some of the more glaring customer service bloopers perpetrated by many of the very large multinationals. When was the last time you tried to get help from one of the computer manufacturers? Or from from a software company? The toll free number that you called put you into a call line up. When someone live finally answered it was in heavily accented English. If you happened to ask exactly where you were calling, you found that you were speaking to someone in Manila, or maybe Bangalore.

These businesses moved these activities offshore when they found that high levels of computer related skills were much less costly there than in North America. Great for these businesses and their cost structures, but not so good for you. Unfortunately the person you got to speak to had a much higher skill level in computers or software than they did in speaking English. So despite their computer related expertise, they couldn't help you very much, if at all. So you had to try again, this time demanding to be put through to someone capable of speaking English.

Would you willingly deal with that company again? And to make matters worse, the English language challenged person you were speaking to had no customer service skills whatever. The attitude clearly indicated that you were a nuisance, and that it was your fault that you couldn't understand them. Big companies rarely perform customer service audits.

You and your company probably don't make customer service bloopers of that magnitude. However, what are you doing that would drive you away if you were a customer of your business. If you are doing something that you know drove one customer away, you have probably lost others to the same behavior. What will a customer service audit show?

In most business situations, it costs over six times as much to acquire and sell something to a new customer as it does to an existing customer. From that perspective, knowing what it costs you to acquire a new customer for your business, what does each customer service failure cost you?

These failures can happen at many levels. In doing your customer service audit, be sure you don't overlook any person or function with customer contact. From the receptionist, through the sales/quotation people, people responsible for invoicing, for receivables and collection. Since your business is unique you can probably think of one or more other people in this category.

Beginning with a customer satisfaction perspective, you may need to examine people having customer contact, to see whether some basic training in customer care is needed. And when you need to replace or promote people to positions with considerable contact, you may want to refine your selection process.

I once experienced extraordinary customer service from a charter airline. After failing to perform, they unhesitatingly accepted that they were at fault, apologized, and reimbursed me for related expenses. I told anyone that would listen about the great way they had treated me. Are you confident your customers will do the same? Doing an audit should give you the answer.

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