In today's competitive areas of industry and commerce, companies are offering customers products and services of a similar nature. So similar, that it is sometimes difficult for customers to detect a real difference. It is, therefore, the quality of customer service that becomes the deciding factor as to which company the customer will patronize and to which company the customer will return again and again for that service or product.
University of Texas A&M researcher, Dr. Leonard Berry, and his research team found that the businesses that were rewarded this way by their customers were the ones that made the Five Dimensions of Service Quality an integral part of their customer service offerings. And despite more recent research, Dr Berry's findings remain the hallmark of the industry. Here are the customer service basics:
Reliability: The ability to provide what was promised. In short, do what you said you would do. How often have customers walked away because of broken promises? The ideal is to promise "good" and deliver "great". So that if a delivery has been promised in three days, and you know it could be done in two, then put all your energies into making it happen in two days. The customer will be happy and will certainly want to do business with your company again.
Assurance: The courtesy and knowledge you show customers along with your ability to exhibit trust, confidence and competence. Customers need to know that the information you give them is based on a sound knowledge of your job, and also on a sound knowledge of your company's policies and procedures. Therefore, be knowledgeable, be courteous. Speak with a calm confidence that elicits your customer's trust.
Tangibles: These are the physical facilities, the equipment and one's own appearance within the business environment. Tangibles are the things customers see, can touch, even smell and taste depending on the industry. Everything about you and your work environment must be pleasing to the eye, to the senses, or customers will leave.
Empathy: The amount of caring and individual attention you give customers, and your ability to understand your customers' feelings, especially when they are upset. Try to imagine yourself in the customer's position. Use a tone of voice and choice of words that together show you understand, that you feel the customer's "pain", and are both willing and ready to help.
Responsiveness: This is the ability to respond promptly to customers. In the case of a customer waiting while you are helping another on the phone, a warm acknowledgement of that customer's presence could suffice until you can give him/her your undivided attention. What if it is a customer's request by e-mail: Again, try to answer promptly. Whatever form it takes, always go that extra mile to give customers prompt attention, and encourage their willingness to continue their patronage.
Now, using the "rater" acronym above, see how well you rate your own efforts as you employ these five strategies every day to help achieve customer loyalty for your company.