A Field In Need of Change

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At one point or another, each of us has experienced good or bad customer service. It is often a deciding factor on whether or not we continue conducting business with a company. It is often the main factor that makes us a returning customer.

For some companies, any business is good business – but there is something special about a returning customer. It is these customers who are often willing to pay a dollar more to experience great customer service, or to ensure that their orders/concerns/questions are handled with care.

In a day and age when so many people are growing accustomed to being treated like a number – in both their personal and professional lives, make no mistake: return customers will be some of a business’s best customers. Why is it, then, that so many companies are willing to risk good customers? Why is it that more focus seems to be placed on gaining new customers than keeping the customers they already have?

There are reasons that are provided in business classes across the globe, and justification that is given. New customers equal dollar signs, equal possessing more of the market share, and yaddy yadda yadda – at the end of the day, treating customers or employees as if they are expendable is completely unacceptable. It’s unacceptable in a moral capacity, but to some people morals don’t matter. For those individuals, I would like to emphasize that treating customers as if they are expendable has the potential to hit your wallet and business profit where it hurts.

If you read over the title of this article again, you will see that the title is not“The Importance of Customer Service.” Everything up to this point has been foundation set for the true core of this article, which is to point out the need for change in the customer service field.

All too often, we call our cell phone provider’s customer service line, or our favorite retail store’s customer service line, only to be greeted with the voice of a person who is quite obviously exhausted or annoyed, or a combination of both. Most of us, while making a mental note that this has transpired, won’t make a big deal about it. After all, the person works in customer service for crying out loud: the job position that consists of listening to people whine, complain, and once in awhile, pose valid questions or concerns. Instead of feeling anger, sometimes we feel either sympathetic or empathetic, either because we have worked in the customer service field and understand what the person is going through, or because you can imagine what the person has to deal with on a daily basis.

Kudos to anyone who is able to put themselves in the shoes of another, but one person out of a hundred being kind and understanding on a daily basis is a drop of water in an ocean. Customer service workers are unsung heroes who are a major part of customer retention, and yet so many of them aren’t receiving adequate appreciation for their efforts. A much more significant impact needs to be made on the customer service field. As it is, many sales positions are rewarded with commissions and incentives, while many customer service roles are not. There are reasons given for this also:

  1. It is not as easy to measure customer retention efforts as it is sales efforts.
  2. Agents shouldn’t have to be paid additional incentives to assist customers.
  3. Future business for the retained customer can’t be predicted.

And so on and so forth, or as I said before…yaddy yadda yadda. Companies know how much they can spare for their customer service associates. It doesn’t always have to be much. Smart companies will pinch off a few hundred dollars to an agent every quarter, and that’s a start. It’s a start to a fix in a field that needs drastic improvement.

Some companies feel they truly can’t afford to offer their customer service agents commission. My heart goes out to those companies, because many of them have good intentions. What a lot of companies fail to realize is that not all signs of appreciation have to be monetary. Surprise your employees with breakfast or lunch. Offer discounted products or services that you know they can actually use. Host company events that allow them to relax or blow steam. A little bit goes a long way to improving your employee morale, and that’s regardless of what field you’re in. Show your employees that you appreciate them, and they will go to hell and back to continue retaining your customers. And when competition is springing up around every other corner, you will appreciate their hard work and dedication in the long run.

What will it take to improve an entire field? The task at this point seems to be the equivalent of moving a mountain, but there are steps that can be made. Some companies are already making them, and I want to make sure to mention that in this article. It is in my humble opinion, though, that “some” isn’t enough. More companies need to jump on board and shift their way of thinking. A company willing to treat their employees poorly will often discover that their customers aren’t being treated quite as well as they should be. That affects the company’s reputation, which in turn affects the company’s bottom line.

For positive change, new companies must show appreciation to their employees right off the bat, and ensure that they are continuing to show employees appreciation whether there are five employees, five hundred employees, or fifty thousand employees. Existing companies must evaluate their pay and incentive structure, and determine whether they are displaying proper appreciation, or whether their pay and incentive structure needs restructuring. Proceed accordingly. It’s not rocket science, and if you task this project to a few of your smartest executives, it may prove to be one of the few things in life that is easier done than said.

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