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Customer service is the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase.
According to Jamier L. Scott. (2002), “Customer service is a series of activities designed to enhance the level of customer satisfaction – that is, the feeling that a product or service has met the customer expectation.”
Its importance varies by product, industry and customer; defective or broken merchandise can be exchanged, often only with a receipt and within a specified time frame. Retail stores will often have a desk or counter devoted to dealing with returns, exchanges and complaints, or will perform related functions at the point of sale.
Customer service may be provided by a person (e.g., sales and service representative), or by automated means called self-service. Examples of self service are Internet sites. However, In the Internet era, a challenge has been to maintain and/or enhance the personal experience while making use of the efficiencies of online commerce. Writing in Fast Company, entrepreneur and customer systems innovator Micah Solomon has made the point that “Online customers are literally invisible to you (and you to them), so it’s easy to shortchange them emotionally. But this lack of visual and tactile presence makes it even more crucial to create a sense of personal, human-to-human connection in the online arena.”
Customer service is normally an integral part of a company’s customer value proposition. In their book Rules to Break and Laws to Follow, Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, Ph.D. write that “customers have memories. They will remember you, whether you remember them or not.” Further, “customer trust can be destroyed at once by a major service problem, or it can be undermined one day at a time, with a thousand small demonstrations of incompetence.”
From the point of view of an overall sales process engineering effort, customer service plays an important role in an organization’s ability to generate income and revenue. From that perspective, customer service should be included as part of an overall approach to systematic improvement.
Some have argued that the quality and level of customer service has decreased in recent years, and that this can be attributed to a lack of support or understanding at the executive and middle management levels of a corporation and/or a customer service policy.
Recently, many organizations have implemented feedback loops that allow them to capture feedback at the point of experience. For example, National Express, one of the UK’s leading travel companies invites passengers to send text messages whilst riding the bus. This has been shown to be useful as it allows companies to improve their customer service before the customer defects, thus making it far more likely that the customer will return next time.Setting the right KPIs
This section contains instructions, advice, or how-to content. The purpose of Wikipedia is to present facts, not to train. Please help improve this article either by rewriting the how-to content or by moving it to Wikiversity or Wikibooks. (August 2009)
A challenge working with Customer Service is to ensure that you have focused your attention on the right key areas, measured by the right Key Performance Indicator. There is no challenge to come up with a lot of meaningful KPIs, but the challenge is to select a few which reflects your overall strategy. In addition to reflecting your strategy it should also enable staff to limit their focus to the areas that really matter. The focus must be of those KPIs, which will deliver the most value to the overall objective, e.g. cost saving, service improving etc. It must also be done in such a way that staff sincerly believe that they can make a difference with the effort.One of the most important aspects of a customer service KPI is that of what is often referred to as the “Feel Good Factor”.  Basically the goal is to not only help the customer have a good experience, but to offer them an experience that exceeds their expectations.
Several key points are listed as follows:
1. Know your product – Know what products/service you are offering back to front. In other words be an information expert. It is okay to say “I don’t know”, but it should always be followed up by… “but let me find out” or possibly ” but my friend knows!” Whatever the situation may be, make sure that you don’t leave your customer with an unanswered question.
2. Body Language/Communication – Most of the communication that we relay to others is done through body language. If we have a negative body language when we interact with others it can show our lack of care. Two of the most important parts of positive body language are smiling, and eye contact. Make sure to look your customers in the eye. It shows that we are listening to them, not at them. And then of course smiling is just more inviting than someone who has a blank look on their face.
3. Anticipate Guest Needs – Nothing surprises your customer more than an employee going the extra mile to help them. Always look for ways to serve your customer more than they expect. In doing so it helps them to know that you care and it will leave them with the “Feel Good Factor” that we are searching for.StandardizationThere are few standards on this topic. ISO and The International Customer Service Institute (TICSI) have published the following ones:
ISO 9004:2000, on performance improvement
ISO 10001:2007, on customer service conduct
ISO 10002:2004, on quality management in handling customer complaints
ISO 10003:2007, on dispute resolution
The International Customer Service Standard (TICSS)
There is also an Information Technology service management standard: ISO/IEC 20000:2005. Its first part concerns specifications and its second part the code of practice.
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