Customer service is the most important component in the success of the organisation. A key factor for the market success of the company is gaining and maintaining customers through effective satisfaction of their needs. Indeed, businesses that are clearly oriented to the customer achieve clear competitive advantage over firms that ignore this approach. Such ignorance may cause a company, which exists in a competitive environment, to be immediately declined by its clients. The vivid example of this can be a situation at East Asian McDonald’s where, as Watson notes about 20 percent of customers are dissatisfied with the level of service. The most common of complaints include an unfriendly atmosphere at the restaurants, bad manners of staff and low level of personnel professional skills. Despite investing lots of money into advertisement, McDonald’s can lose many customers to other competitors in the nearest future. This issue is something that is worth mentioning in powerpoint presentation as well. Here you can find how to make a good powerpoint presentation for work
Empowerment in Customer Service Management
It is clear that modern companies must always stay in touch with their customers. It is important for the company to know and understand the particular customer needs, as well as benefits that client associates with buying the company’s goods and services. Such strategy is best achieved through the so-called “front line” of the organization, i.e. the personnel who contact clients directly. For example, Brink and Berndt note that such companies as General Electric, Dell, WalMart, Cisco, Ingram Micro and USAA spend a lot of money on their frontal systems - information system for employees which communicate directly with customers. Many frontal systems were originally designed for companies to work with clients more effectively. However, the progressive companies nowadays begin to realize that such systems can be used as a powerful marketing tool. For example, if employees are provided with information about purchase history of the particular customer – empowered, in other words - they can be more sympathetic to this customer and recommend him to pay attention to some additional products. Frontal system does not only give the employee a powerful tool which allow him to respond to customer requests quickly, but also provides him with the knowledge gathered throughout the company, once again, empowering the employee.
Empowerment of “front line” employees can bring many benefits to the company. Here is a list of possible gains from service employees’ empowerment:
1. Quick response to customers’ needs. Employee possessing enough information can quickly solve a difficult situation without the need to consult with his supervisor. Sometimes this can even turn an angry or frustrated customer into a satisfied one.
2. Making employees feel better about their job. Giving employees a right to make most decisions regarding the job on their own can boost their sense of responsibility significantly. Such empowerment gives the staff a sense of control and of them doing a meaningful work, which results in the rise of customer service quality.
3. Friendly and sympathetic interaction with customers. Customers usually want service personnel to be concerned about their needs. In the case employees feel good about their job, they can affect the customer’s vision of the service he gets. This approach is very important in the situation when employee’s attitude is an essential addition to the package of services that are purchased.
4. Empowerment may lead an employee to become a source of ideas about increasing the quality of customer service. Front line staff can provide valuable information about customers’ vision of service delivery system. This can lead to the creation of new services, and improvement of existing ones.
It is possible to see that empowerment of customer service management is important for any organization working in the sector of services. However, creating and maintaining the mentioned frontal information system (FIS) within a company is not an easy task, and should be considered carefully. It is true that successful FIS projects are characterized by unusually high return of investments, when the money spent is paying off in just a few months or even weeks. It happens because the developed frontal system encourages the organization to carry out a series of improvements in it’s marketing activities. With the growing scale of implementation of technologies into the field of customers’ contact, the cost of implementation falls, making the entire process economical.
In general, projects of creating frontal systems are riskier than others, but opportunities for the return of investments for them are also higher. The successful implementation of such a project requires not only close partnership with IT, but also a deep understanding of customer behavior. Many suppliers are eager to enhance the value of their products through the use of FIS, but if the system is designed basing on the generalized average customer needs, it may not be appropriate for a particular company.
The stages of successful implementation of the FIS are the following:
1. The most competent employees must be chosen to communicate with customers and the authority to make decisions must be given to them.
Having decided to invest in the FIS, the company cannot rely on success without providing a real transfer of authority to staff and democratization in the field of power and prestige. However, empowerment of incompetent people is pointless. Brink and Berndt (2004) note that historically, the ruling caste of North American business puts employees working with customers on lower rungs of the hierarchy, leaving very limited options for their growth. The majority of these employees are uneducated (not above high school), and the company spends almost nothing on their training. They are usually only needed to tie a contact time and then go back into the shadows.
The flip side of this practice, is that in inadequately built system of communication with clients, even the most competent employees may feel helpless. Too often, an employee who is responsible for contact with a customer, is forced to apologize for the poor performance of the system or system failure while ensuring necessary action. A combination of high quality FIS and competent employees is hard to oppose, but the same combination with the “minus sign” will result only in a waste of time of these people.
For most corporations, the adoption of FIS is associated with large changes in the internal culture. Corporations not only have to believe in the validity of the transfer of authority, they also need to hire high-skilled employees to work with customers, learn how to measure and evaluate their work and to pay for outstanding results. Corporations must continually invest in improving of the educational and professional level of the staff.
2. Revisit the work processes and bring them into one line with needs of the customer. Organization of processes is particularly important for businesses vitally dependent on the FIS. The successful application of FIS requires the alignment of all internal processes in line with the vector “front - rear system”; internal processes must serve the external imperatives rather than internal objectives, that is, the generation of feeling of satisfaction of the client which is profitable for the company. By reviewing the processes of the “front” in the direction of focusing on the customer, the organization can make them work by combining the “rear” of the system and the supply chain into a single mechanism.
The most important imperative for the FIS is the full integration of activities around the customer. Marketing service (pre-sales) and customer service (after-sales) should work without any linings. However, this requires considerable organizational changes as most companies are still inherent in vertical stratification of these and other functions. In fact, wherever it makes sense, companies should try to get rid of all human mediation, providing customer an opportunity to work directly with technological objects.
The times when companies could improve the quality of customer service by using the principles of Dale Carnegie are gone. Of course, they had not been canceled, but now it is not enough. Orientation of the organization to customers is very important for increasing its profits and works for the future. It can be said that delivering a great customer experience is a fundamental that every company should consider, and organizations that perform well in this area are able to get the most from their “front line”. There are many models of the customer orientation of the firm, but all of them are intertwined with a necessity of employees’ empowerment. A careful and reasonable approach to the interaction with customers can make them into the greatest asset of the company. An example of such approach can be an implementation of FIS (frontal information system). The gist of it is that the customers become the highest priority for the company, with the strategy of the organization developed to match their needs and the usage of latest technologies in the field of communication with customers. Nowadays, this approach becomes mainstream, which clearly reflects the importance of empowerment in customer service management.