Customer service is the provision of service to customers
before, during and after a purchase.
According to Turban et al. (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 products, 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; the perceived
success of such interactions being dependent on employees
"who can adjust themselves to the personality of the guest,
"according to Micah Solomon quoted in Inc. Magazine.
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. A
customer service experience can change the entire perception
a customer has of the organization.
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. To address this argument,
many organizations have employed a variety of methods to
improve their customer satisfaction levels, and other KPIs.
Automated customer service
Customer service may be provided by a person (e.g., sales
and service representative), or by automated means. Examples
of automated means are Internet sites. An advantage with
automated means is an increased ability to provide service
24-hours a day, which can, at least, be a complement to
customer service by persons.
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
Automated means can be based entirely on self service, but
may also be based on service by more or less means of
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.
Technology has made it increasingly easier for companies to
obtain feedback from customers. Community blogs and forums
give customers to give detailed explanations of both
negative and positive experiences with an organization.
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 sincerely 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
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
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.