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."
The importance of customer service may vary by product or service, industry and customer. The perception of success of such interactions will be dependent on employees "who can adjust themselves to the personality of the guest," according to Micah Solomon. Customer service can also refer to the culture of the organization - the priority the organization assigns to customer service relative to other components, such as product innovation or low price. In this sense, an organization that values good customer service may spend more money in training employees than average organization, or proactively interview customers for feedback.
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.
Customer support is a range of customer services to assist customers in making cost effective and correct use of a product. It includes assistance in planning, installation, training, trouble shooting, maintenance, upgrading, and disposal of a product. These services even may be done at customer's side where he/she uses the product or service. In this case it is called "at home customer services" or "at home customer support".
Regarding technology products such as mobile phones, televisions, computers, software products or other electronic or mechanical goods, it is termed technical support.
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.
Another example of automated customer service is by touch-tone phone, which usually involves a main menu, and the use of the keypad as options (i.e. "Press 1 for English, Press 2 for Spanish", etc.)
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. "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 arena."
Examples of customer service by artificial means are automated online assistants that can be seen as avatars on websites. It can avail for enterprises to reduce their operating and training cost. These are driven by chatterbots, and a major underlying technology to such systems is natural language processing.
Recently[when?], many organizations have implemented feedback loops that allow them to capture feedback at the point of experience. For example, National Express has invited 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 their customers. Community blogs and forums give customers the ability to give detailed explanations of both negative as well as positive experiences with a company/organization.
A challenge in 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 follows:
- 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 question.
- 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 shows that we don't care. Two of the most important aspects 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 and hearing what they are saying. And of course smiling is more inviting than a blank look or frown.
- Anticipate Guest Needs – Nothing surprises your customer more than an employee going the extra mile to help them. Always look for ways to go above and beyond the expectations of your customer. In doing so, it helps them to know that you care and it will leave them with a "Feel Good Factor" that we are searching for.
- ISO 9004:2000, on performance improvement
- ISO 10001:2007, on customer service conduct
- ISO 10002:2004, on quality management in handling customer complaints
- ISO 10003:2007, on dispute resolution
- The International Customer Service Standard (TICSS)
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 key performance indicators (KPIs).
- Automated attendant
- Customer experience management
- Customer experience transformation
- Customer relationship management
- Customer service advisor
- Customer service representative
- Customer service training
- Demand chain
- Institute of Customer Service (UK)
- Interactive voice response
- Live support software
- Professional services automation
- Public Services
- Sales process engineering
- Service system
- Support automation
- Technical support
- Sales territory
- Social skills
- Turban, Efraim (2002). Electronic Commerce: A Managerial Perspective. Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-185461-5.
- Buchanan, Leigh (1 March 2011). "A Customer Service Makeover". Inc. magazine. Retrieved 29 Oct 2012.
- Paul H. Selden (December 1998). "Sales Process Engineering: An Emerging Quality Application". Quality Progress: 59–63.
- businessdictionary.com > customer support Retrieved Mars 2011
- Implementing an online help desk system based on conversational agent Authors: Alisa Kongthon, Chatchawal Sangkeettrakarn, Sarawoot Kongyoung and Choochart Haruechaiyasak. Published by ACM 2009 Article, Bibliometrics Data Bibliometrics. Published in: Proceeding, MEDES '09 Proceedings of the International Conference on Management of Emergent Digital EcoSystems, ACM New York, NY, USA. ISBN 978-1-60558-829-2, doi:10.1145/1643823.1643908
- Solomon, Micah (4 March 2010). "Seven Keys to Building Customer Loyalty--and Company Profits". Fast Company. Retrieved 29 Oct 2012.
- "Lunch Lesson Four - Customer service". BBC News. October 3, 2003. Retrieved October 27, 2008.
- Dall, Michael; Bailine, Adam (2004). Service this: Winning the war against customer disservice (1st ed.). Last Chapter First. ISBN 0-9753719-0-8.