In case you have not been paying attention in recent years, many time-honored national and international organizations have disappeared or are struggling to remain competitive. In most instances, this can be attributed to the fact that managers and executives have not effectively predicted societal changes. To compound the problem, they did not invest adequate resources into technology and hiring and training customer service representatives. Such neglect typically leads to employees ineffectively providing service levels expected by their customers. Often, the root cause is that decision makers fail to make customer service a strategic organizational initiative.
In a global marketplace where the nearest competitor is likely to be only a mouse click away, inadequately planning or failing to restructure changing demands usually has dire consequences. The organizations that are prospering in the world are those that have focused on customer service as a strategic initiative.
Many successful small businesses have realized that they cannot compete with larger national groups on technology, salaries and other high cost elements. What they can do is to build a solid team of employees, treat them well, train them and make customer service a distinctive factor in doing business with customers. The result is typically increased customer satisfaction, enhanced customer loyalty and reduced customer churn.
Some organizations that have paid the price for not adopting customer service as a strategic organizational initiative include:
- Radio Shack
- Borders Books
- Circuit City
Other well-known organizations are struggling to remain profitable:
- Best Buy
- U.S. Postal Service
Why do such failures occur? In many instances because the management of the organizations fail to foresee coming customer service trends and do not effectively address changing customer needs, wants and expectations, such as:
- Consumer buying pattern shifts (e.g. online and over the telephone rather than coming to a store).
- Enhanced technology capabilities (e.g. Internet, mobile devices usage, and customer care centers) to provide state-of-the-art service 24/7/365.
- Societal shifts that impact consumer spending (e.g. working from home).
- Global competition. Many organizations now conduct B2B and business-to-consumer operations via technology where they can reach far beyond their normal geographic location. Customers now buy globally rather than just locally.
- Geopolitical changes (e.g. free trade agreements). These open borders for trade and produce competitors from around the world.
- Changing demographics and values. A more diverse customer base with varying needs shop today and people move from one location to another. These customers do not leave their cultural and personal preferences behind. All of this impacts product and service decision making and buying.
The reality is that customers have many choices for the same or similar products and services in today’s world. If an organization and its employees do not place customers at the top of their priority list when making decisions, it is quite likely that they may not get a second chance to work with a customer.
The effort to make customer service a strategic organizational initiative starts at the top and flows down to front line employees. For ideas on the knowledge and customer service skills that every employee needs to help make customer service a competitive distinction within his or her organization, check out Customer Service Skills for Success and Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service Across Cultures.
What companies do you believe make customer service a strategic organizational initiative?