This lesson looks at customer service and customer care as ways of providing customer service for internal and external customers. Customer care generally relates to a specific programme which is designed to support and enhance the customer Experience. Customer service generally describes a department or culture of service which focuses upon the customer. For example Toyota has a customer care programme which is designed to support customers from the moment they purchased a vehicle to the point where they returned to buy another. Toyota’s customer service team would be a dedicated department of personnel whom deal with customer service issues day-to-day as they arise. There is also a culture of customer service within Toyota whereby all staff are trained in how to deal with customers in order to provide the best service possible.
Customer service elements
There are a number of elements which are contained in a customer service system. These include delivery, sales and ordering, accounts and invoicing, complaints, and aftersales service.
Products and services need to be delivered on time to the right people, in the right place. Customers need to be guided through the sales and ordering process so that they get the right product or service that meets their needs. Our internal credit control section will make sure that customers can pay on time and using the method that they prefer. Complaints need to be handled methodically and systematically so that any issues are brought to successful solution. Once the product is being used and consumed, our aftersales service will give the customer the opportunity to use your support sections.
Of course the product or service that you consumer will dictate the level and nature of any customer service or care that you receive. Airlines are good examples of this. If you pay a premium price for a first class ticket then you should expect better customer service and customer care than if you have simply bought a much cheaper economy ticket.
Customer service in different sectors.
Developing on the airline example above, customer service will differ depending upon the business sector in which you trade. Let’s examine some of the most prominent such as private sector markets, public sector markets, not-for-profit markets and Business-to-Business (B2B) markets.
The private sector uses customer service as a differentiator or a way of building and developing the customer relationship. Customer service is a way of not only adding value, but is also a means to retaining customers. Car manufacturers such as Volkswagen use strong customer service as a way to keep customers coming back to buy their cars for long periods of years. Dealers are trained in customer support and they conform to Volkswagen’s customer services policy. FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) sectors (e.g. chocolate bars) demonstrate similar more prescriptive customer care
programmes, which may simply be a Freephone number.
The public sector has embraced the techniques of customer services over recent years. The notion is that that customers are paying taxes for services and that tax is the price that they pay for public services. Public sector organisations train their staff in customer service and they tend to be on the frontline of customer interaction. Service levels tend to be planned and agreed, and this is a way of measuring public sector effectiveness.
Not-for-profit markets include the voluntary sector (e.g. minibus services for the elderly) and social enterprises that aim to serve the community and reinvest profits for the good of all (e.g. a community grocery shop in a rural area). Customer service here recognises that that it is in everyone’s interest to be efficient and cautious, although volunteers should be treated with encouragement and patience. The techniques and tools of customer service are useful to not-for-profit organisations.
Business-to-Business (B2B) organisations tend to be businesses that serve other businesses such as accountants, lawyers, computer network suppliers and so on. Again, depending on the level of service needed, effective customer service is vital since many B2B companies supply services. Customer service here is a way of adding–value. However, try to recognise that B2B companies tend to work within the longer supply chain which has a final consumer at its end. Therefore there is a degree of empathy at each stage with the situation of others up and down the supply chain.