Today’s customers are more aware and empowered, and have more bargaining power due to the exponential increase in competition – direct, indirect or substitute. In retailing, they want hassle-free shopping, have less time at their disposal to locate the shop and the merchandise and are reluctant to keep waiting. The modern format retail stores are doing their best to anticipate the customer’s demands and are going all out to redesign their store interiors, offer more choices in varieties and assortments, and are giving as many services as feasible.
Service firms are increasingly using customer service to develop sustainable competitive advantage – through value generation as well as differentiation. This leads to more profitability. According to an estimate of the Customer Service Institute, US, it is five times more expensive to acquire new customers than to generate business from an existing one.1
The activities that support orders, including information, advice, configuration, order processing, handling, post-sale communication and special services. The primary objective of customer service is to increase customer satisfaction, operational efficiency and customer loyalty.
Customer Vs. Consumer: A customer is the person who makes the buying decision. He is involved in the final transaction with the service provider or the intermediary in the last chain of service distribution, experiencing the encounter. A consumer is the one who utilizes the service offered. In some cases the consumer is not the customer, for example, when a man buys an airline ticket for his son or daughter.
NATURE OF CUSTOMER SERVICE
Customer service is usually intangible and variable (see Chapter 3). Customers cannot see, touch or feel them, but can only experience the pleasure and satisfaction of it. Intangibility implies that customers, as well as service providers, will find difficulty in exploring their service requirement as well as in evaluating them. Service providers can neither check, count or measure customer service before its delivery.
The variability factor makes customer service delivery inconsistent. There are difference in skill, attitude, moods, involvement, orientation and education amongst the service providers, which contributes to the inconsistency in the customer service. The human element makes a customer service associate have variability in his service.
CUSTOMER SERVICE BEHAVIOURS
There are four essential customer service behaviours:
1) Recovery from Customer Service failures;
2) Adaptability to customer needs and requests;
3) Spontaneity in surprising (by surpassing the customer’s expectations) and pleasing customers; 4) Coping with problem customers.
Customers are actually aware that people make mistakes. The real issue then is a service firm’s ability to recover from their mistakes and to make things right. Customers will remember service failures vividly. And they will remember, even more vividly if the service firm sincerely did, or did not, make an effort to remedy the situation. This is the reason why the organization should ‘enable’ its internal customers to make it possible for employees to transform a failure into a pleasant experience for the customer.
“Mistakes can usually be corrected later; the time that is lost in not making a decision can never be retrieved”.
EVALUATION OF SERVICE QUALITY BY CUSTOMERS
Customers tend to evaluate the quality of the service with their expectations4. When their expectations are met by the perceived service delivery, then the customers are satisfied; they are dissatisfied when it falls below their expectations. A customer is ‘delighted’ when the service delivery is perceived to be beyond expectations.
Different customers tend to have different expectations, which is based on their respective needs, knowledge and past experience with the service firm. Word-of-mouth and company –...