Getting your staff on board with superior customer service

October 21, 2011

How easy is your company to do business with? Do you make it hard on your customers to have a great experience or do you make it simple, painless and perhaps even fun?

Early in my career, I was lucky enough to work with Bill Davidow, a Silicon Valley author, investor and icon who instilled in me the fundamental truth that customer service is the ultimate weapon in running a successful business.

This goes for anyone running a shoe store to a fast-food franchise to a global software business like ours. The difference, in my opinion, between talking customer service and really performing at a high level is making customer service the fundamental measuring stick of the organization.

In medicine, doctors take an oath that says, “First, do no harm.”

In business, you should say, “First, cause customers no pain.”

For example, if you only build features into your product that you know are going to add value that improves that customer’s life or business operation, the concept of total customer service is built in, not just a bolted-on policy. Every step of the way, from product release policy, to dealing with bugs, to pricing and licensing models, policies need to be guided by making sure the customer is getting increased value and not being inconvenienced or unfairly charged.

In other words, make sure your customer service practices are the best your customers have experienced. Make that the driving force behind all of the operational policies and principles you put in place. The rest will follow.

There are great ways to measure customer service and get your team behind these ideas. Internally, you need to set procedural and compensation policies that reward those who provide customers with outstanding experiences.

When I joined Shunra Software about 18 months ago, our maintenance renewal rates were less than 70 percent. In my first year, I set a goal of achieving a 90-plus percent maintenance renewal. For other business types you could think of this as the frequency and volume of repeat business. That changed how we interact with the customer at every level.

It’s no longer acceptable for example, for a sales rep to sell a product, say thank you, take his commission and then ignore them. Now we also need to agree on a plan to be successful with our products. We return and measure the before and after impact.

After the sale, every department is on the hook, and measured on renewals. For example, when we get an inbound support request or customer call, the level of responsiveness and satisfaction from customers from every interaction has to be extraordinarily high. You can’t leave any unsolved issues out there.

Today, thanks to new policies and a laser-like focus on customer service, our maintenance renewals have reached 92 percent. It’s a dramatic increase and one that everyone is proud of not just because of increased sales, but because we got there by making customers happy.

Gary Jackson is chief executive of Shunra Software, a Philadelphia-based company that helps firms worldwide ensure application performance and end user experience.

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