What is Customer Service?

There are multiple aspects of customer service; and they are not necessarily aligned.

So, here goes a recent conversation I had…

Ring, ring…
Me: Hello!
Oper: I am calling from xyz mobile company. Can I speak to Axxxx
Me: Nobody by that name here
Oper: Is this 9xxxxxxxxx?
Me: Yes, but the name is Aviral
Oper: Please go to the store at location x and submit your documents
Me: I did that 2 days ago. Can you please get this fixed?
Oper: Sir! This is a welcome call. I cannot do that. Please take your documents to location x
Me: (in my mind) What are you welcoming me to – bad customer service?

Unfortunately, experiences such as this are not limited to Telecom companies. In the city that I call home, customer service often takes a back seat. This is true in stores, restaurants, and even in the professional organizations.

This led me to question why we put up with it. I did an (extremely) unscientific survey and came up with the following observations:

  1. People tend to pay more attention to what they receive than how they receive it
  2. People tend to avoid thinking about what they will do when/if something goes wrong

This led me to thinking about the various facets of customer service. My thoughts, incomplete on hindsight, identified customer service as what I got from people – sales, queries, complaints and the ilk. I was completely ignoring the initial quality of the product as an element of customer service.

I now agree that the best customer service is one where one never needs after sales support. However, this is not realistic and companies need to cater for the other parts also. This is especially true for places with forced interaction such as restaurants – food quality is necessary but not sufficient.

So, the unanswered questions in my mind:

  1. What is the right balance as far as the definition of customer service goes?
  2. What are the drivers for organizations to achieve this balance?
  3. As consumers, how much and how can we impact these drivers to get the right balance necessary for us?

For us 9-to-whatevers, the question translates into how much we think about the customer vs. the product as we perform our duties…

3 thoughts on “What is Customer Service?

  1. The expectation of customer service depends a lot on the city/town we are residing in and mostly it attunes to the prevalent service levels of that city. From my experience of staying in different Indian cities, i can say that people in Kolkata are very happy with the customer service levels they receive, while a person from Mumbai will be aghast if he/she reaches Kolkata and needs to use the same services. Hence, its all relative.
    Competition is possibly the only driver for organizations to achieve this balance. A monopoly business situation is really not good for achieving high levels of customer service.
    As customers we can ensure that we do not take bad service lying down and if needed we should be ready to switch loyalties.

    • I agree that competition is necessary, but is it sufficient? The Telecom industry is a handout example.

      I also agree that consumer demand for service helps. By how much does it impact the result? Are there ways to provide the right motivation to corporations? As an example, would people be willing to pay more for better service? 5 star hotels and branded products are examples, but beyond that?

  2. Its more like – good service comes at a cost. If you want good service, you need to pay more and i think most people understand that and are satisfied as long as they get their money’s worth. Its only when they dont, do they complain.

    Although the telecom industry is bad, but i think compared to other related sectors (say. ISPs), the service provided by the private telecom players are still way more decent.

    The fact remains that there are very few providers who ll take that extra step to provide better service unless they expect it ll reap them benefits. And to ensure that they do get some benefits, either we pay more or in some way ensure that we create more business for them

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