“E-service is the glue that holds the e-commerce process together.” So says John Tschohl, author of a new book titled e-Service and president of the Minneapolis-based Service Quality Institute. Tschohl predicts that those e-commerce companies that focus on technology and ignore service will fail. “E-service the critical factor,” he says. “Those companies that focus on e-service-speed, technology and price built around service-will succeed, while those that focus on technology will fall by the wayside.”
E-service is a web site that is easy to navigate. It is e-mail inquiries that are answered within hours, preferably minutes. It is offering consumers the opportunity to contact the company by telephone or fax as well as by e-mail. It is employees who make customer satisfaction a priority.
“E-service doesn’t just happen,” Tschohl says. “It has to be integrated into every facet of a company’s business, from the implementation of technology to the hiring and training of employees. At the core of an e-service culture is the belief that no transaction is complete unless the service that customers receive is sufficient enough to motivate them to return to you to purchase more products or services.”
Training, Tschohl says, is the key to creating a service culture. But, he adds, that training must be ongoing in order to create a service culture that will take root. Consider this: 65 percent of a company’s business comes from current customers. That means if a company wants to stay in business, it had better focus on winning the satisfaction of its current customers.
Tschohl offers the following Seven Secrets of Customer Service to help any company selling any product or service create a service culture.
Employ customer contact employees who do not feel that service is servile. Hire people who are people-oriented, who are naturally endowed with positive service attitudes and values. Then train them to meet your service standards.
Solicit complaints. For every customer who complains, 26 do not. Make it convenient for customers to complain-and treat them kindly when they do. Remember that, when customers complain, they are giving you the opportunity to keep their business. Surveys show that you can win back between 54 and 70 percent of those customers simply by resolving their complaints.
Commit the company to customer service-by word and by deed. Use day-to-day, how-to internal communications to remind employees of the value of good customer relations. Evaluate managers, too, on their ability to achieve customer service objectives that are part of their annual objectives.
Train and indoctrinate front-line employees. Expend most of your training resources on those employees whose knowledge and behavior influence clients and customers to return. Those people are your front-line employees. Also pay specific attention to your technical employees who, in most cases, are brilliant when it comes to technology but are sorely lacking in interpersonal skills. Everyone in your organization must be skilled at communicating with your customers, whether that communication is verbal or via e-mail.
“Training must be ongoing,” Tschohl says. “Just as a company wouldn’t run all of its advertising in one month and expect to draw customers throughout the entire year, training must be provided on an ongoing basis in order to reinforce the message a company wants to send to its employees and to change their behaviors. That training must focus on the basics. Even Tiger Woods, the most successful golfer in the world, practices the basics every day.”
Teach employees how to provide customer service. People are not born with the skills and dispositions required to do a good job for your company. “In fact,” says Tschohl, “if they are left alone to apply what they have learned from salespeople while they are customers, it is more likely that they will be oblivious, overbearing and unavailable than it is that they will be concerned and helpful.
Employ simple, inexpensive, entertaining training media to achieve maximum comprehension by front-line employees. Training should include video, which is the most effective means of communicating with the TV generation. Written materials should use simple, clear, concise language that everyone can understand. Not everyone can understand course materials written to the level at which managers and top executives are comfortable.
Treat employees like worthwhile, sensitive, deserving human beings. Treat your employees just as you expect them to treat your customers. “When you treat your employees like royalty, they will treat your customers like royalty,” Tschohl says. In the process, they will instill a loyalty that will keep your customers returning to you to purchase more products and services.
“In order to survive, you must make e-service the modus operandi at your company,” Tschohl says. “You must provide e-service that is so exceptional, so noticeable, that your customers wouldn’t even think of doing business with anyone else.”
John Tschohl is an international management consultant and speaker. Described by Time and Entrepreneur magazines as a “customer service guru,” he has written several books on customer service, including e-Service, Achieving Excellence Through Customer Service, The Customer is Boss, and Ca$hing In: Make More Money Get a Promotion, Love your Job. John also has developed more than 26 customer service training programs that have been distributed and presented throughout the world. His weekly strategic newsletter is available online at no charge.