Q: I own a supermarket, which I recently expanded by selling household appliances. We’ve had to deal with quite a number of complaints since we started this business. How do I handle such feedback, without losing my customers?
A: When a company sees its customer service division as nothing but a buffer for complaints and negative feedback, it’s wasting the opportunity to build customer loyalty and increase brand equity, says John Sioco, operations director at Excellence Appliance Technologies. Exatech is the exclusive distributor of international householdappliance brands Whirlpool, Fujidenzo, Glem, Whirlpool-Maytag, and Saijo Denki in the Philippines. “You want your customer service as your differentiating feature as a brand,” he says.
Define your standards for quality and speed of service. “Quality of service is about what the customer experiences during the actual time he contacts the brand, whether it’s through the call center or the technician going to his house. You have to do regular training and monthly refreshers to make sure the staff is on the same page as you. You want your customer service as your differentiating feature as a brand,” he says.
“Make sure your front liners know how to handle complaints and irate customers. Some customers can be unreasonable with their demands. Your staff has to know when they have to say no, but they have to do it in a polite and respectful manner. They’re the most important part of the customer service experience. Give them guidelines on what they can and they cannot do."
“For speed of service, take note of average response time—how soon the service gets to the customer after his call. At Exatech, our standard is next-day service. If you call today, we’ll send somebody tomorrow. Ninety percent of customers will be happy with that as other companies take three days to one week."
“But how about the remaining 10 percent? They are those who require same-day service. For instance, business-to-business clients cannot tolerate downtime. Even though we follow a next-day service standard, we might make exceptions for our B2B customers and call up a technician who’s already out in the field.
“That’s what a business owner needs to balance if he wants to provide good service. You have to study your competitive environment, find out what the differentiating feature could be, and do a cost-benefit analysis (see if the benefit is worth the cost).”
Serve well now and reap the rewards later. “Unlike promotions or advertising where you can immediately measure the amount of pesos generated in sales, in customer service, it’s very hard. The actual effect is long-term and not seen in a span of a few months or even a year. But if customers had a good experience with your after-sales service, they would think of your brand a few years after."
“Decide to make customer service part of your initial strategy. That way, even if you don’t see the results immediately, you still push through. You’ll be confident that the returns will come. What you’re after is to build customer goodwill and generate repeat business, and those customers that are happy with your brand and service will buy again. "