Service Sets Your Company Apart

By Fatmanur Erdogan, Hürriyet Daily News

Some years ago, companies figured out how to build quality products. In almost every sector, and in almost every cost position, you’ll find good design and quality manufacturing. However, what most companies haven’t figured out is how to provide high quality customer service. Now and into the future, service is exactly what will differentiate companies from one another.

The concept is simple, but when you are looking from inside a company out, the obstacles might seem complex. Throughout the business world, managers say, “The bigger a company gets, the more complex it becomes”. This excuse is demotivating and it certainly doesn’t do customers any good. When your customers encounter one-sided solutions to their problems, it just creates more problems instead of solving the original one.

For example, take the Internet service providers in Turkey. Regardless of which ISP I use, my connection at home goes down most of the time. I’m paying for a service, but I’m not getting it. Changing from one ISP to another doesn’t seem to solve the problem, since all the ISP’s depend on one monopoly company for their infrastructure. Whenever there’s a problem with the service, they blame “regional work” that’s out of their hands. Instead of acknowledging the problem and taking responsibility for solving it or making up for it, they tell me I have to bear the consequences.

Or look at the online banking system. It is cumbersome and you have to keep an array of information with you at all times, just so you can log on to your account. To activate an online account, some banks take the extra step of sending you to an ATM. Then they ask you to change your password every few months, and if you enter it incorrectly, they lock you out of the system. You can only regain access via a message they send to your cell phone. So, you have to have the phone with you and hope that it is fully charged. If it’s not charged, you have to hope you remembered to bring your charger with you.

Somehow, the banks’ management decided that constructing a labyrinth-like security process made for better security, and that their customers would appreciate them for it. Instead, they are consigning their customers to a security system hell. Actually, it is possible to create systems that deliver both security and a positive customer experience, and banks elsewhere have managed to do it. But two things are required: First, managers need to put customer experience first, and second, customers need to stop accepting mediocre service.

According to a 2005 Bain & Company survey, eighty percent of companies believe they deliver a superior customer experience, but only 8 percent of their customers agree. Right here in Turkey, companies proudly present statistics on how many customers are satisfied with their services, and they prominently display the awards they are winning. But even if you are an award-winning, customer-serving company with a 90% satisfaction rate, if you have 5 million customers, that 10% still means you have half a million customers out there spreading the word about their dissatisfaction.

It doesn’t matter if you think you deliver a superior customer experience. The only thing that matters is what your customers think. And your customers don’t care how complex your company is, or how special you think you are. They only care about receiving streamlined services that are dependable and easy to use, and when something breaks, they want it fixed quickly. Learn how to deliver that kind of smooth customer experience, and you will be truly differentiated and ready to prosper in the years ahead.

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