Superior Service Improves Customer Satisfaction

In the research Polaris has conducted for its clients over the years, one emergent theme has been the importance of delivering superior service.�Service-related attributes stand out over attributes such as product quality in their importance to customers.�While this is not universally the case, it warrants some discussion as to what defines high-quality service and what companies can do to translate this understanding into higher customer satisfaction.

Most companies want to believe that they provide a unique offering to their customers.�In many industries, this uniqueness is achieved by delivering service superior to that offered by competitors.�This, of course, begs the question �what does superior service mean?��While the details are certainly industry and even firm specific, the basic principles can be generalized.�The following list is by no means intended to be exhaustive but should provide a good starting point for thinking about service delivery.

  • Always try to exceed customers� expectations.�Whether customer expectations are set by the firm or by a competitor, exceeding these will reflect on the company�s reputation and leave a lasting impression.�Inherent in this is a strong understanding of customer needs as these dictate expectations.�With a true understanding of this need, managing customer expectations up front sets the stage for being able to exceed them down the line.

  • Track changes in customer expectations over time.�Any successful company must learn to identify and adjust to changing trends, many of which will be reflected in customer expectations.

  • Make a strong first impression. The first contact with a customer (the �moment of truth�) often sets the tone for their lasting impression of the company.�How a customer feels about a transaction tends to be more important than the product or service purchased.

  • Be accessible, approachable, and responsive.�If a customer finds it difficult to get in touch with someone, they are less likely to do so, and the prospect of developing a strong, long-term relationship is greatly diminished.

  • Be proactive in reaching out to customers.�Just as being inaccessible or unresponsive can hurt a long-term relationship, making a habit of regularly reaching out to customers can provide the means to build lasting relationships.

  • Use research to determine what is important to customers and how well service performance aligns with that importance.�Initial customer satisfaction research will provide a baseline against which to measure future improvement initiatives.�Ongoing surveying of customers will then help identify specifically what attributes of the product/service are of greatest importance to customers, how the company performs against those attributes and how both change over time.

  • Have periodic in-depth discussions, possibly focus groups, with front-line service personnel.�Almost all public-contact employees are self-motivated to make customers happy and resolve their problems.�They are the best source for identifying roadblocks to excellent service (too much paperwork, difficult return policies, lack of information, interdepartmental miscommunication, inability to schedule service call times, etc.) and what upsets customers most.�Spotlighting and addressing these issues not only improves service but front-line personnel job satisfaction as well.

  • Work to improve employee satisfaction.�Regularly measuring and striving to improve employee satisfaction will also have an impact on customer satisfaction.�More satisfied employees will produce higher quality products and provide better service to customers.

Again, this list of considerations for service improvement is neither exhaustive nor specific enough to tailor improvement initiatives around.�An ongoing customer satisfaction research program will help to identify the issues facing a particular business, as well as their relative importance to customers.�Through such a program, a full-service marketing research firm could help identify the specific improvements that will have the greatest impact on improving overall customer satisfaction.

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