1Internal communication

For a strategy to work we need to make sure everyone is aware of what that strategy is and how everyone within the business is responsible for customer service. It's too easy for colleagues to point at various departments claiming that responsibility for customer service lies with them and not themselves. Everyone is in some way responsible for customer service and as such everyone should be clear on their specific role.

This can be achieved by producing processes and procedures that are published to all areas of the business explaining what the strategy is and how it should be supported throughout. Provide regular communications showing how well the processes and procedures are working and how various areas of the business have been instrumental in support the strategy.

Reinforce the strategy during company/department meetings to ensure the best service is being provided.

2 External communication

It is clear that there is a need to provide communication to the customer, this can be for various reasons including, helping resolve an issue, provide information existing products and services being supplied to the customer, information on new products and services that are being offered that might be of interest. What is key is the way in which communication is made in relation to the type of information being passed on.

Where a customer raises a concern or an question the best way to communicate is direct via a face to face or phone conversation, this avoids misunderstandings of email or long email threads. Dealing with issues directly in this manner is also something that is appreciated by the customer. Once the issue is resolved an email can be used to confirm the final solution.

Bombarding customers with email adverts is not something that is appreciated, of course we have a need to update the customer with new offerings however this should be targetted at the correct area of the customers business and should not be too frequent.

Consider a monthly or quarterly news letter that can not only provide the updates you want to promote but the customer will expect the email if its on a regular defined basis.

3 Recording communication

Any contact with your customer should be recorded in some shape or form. If the details are not recorded there is a good chance you will forget what was said! When we consider the first point of everyone being involved in customer service there is a need to have a central location for customer contact information, this will allow anyone at any time to see the status of a customer. There are many customer tracking systems available, our own is available on line and you can trial it here. A tracking system will allow you to see who said or did something and when it was done. The system can also prompt you when you haven't updated an issue in a defined time.

When meeting with your customer having access to the notes of an issue can help you have the correct conversation and shows the customer you are interested in the issue and the need to resolve it.

All members of staff should have access in one form or another to log an issue and record customer communication. This may be via a centralised support team or via direct access to the recording system. The overall procedures that have been defined should direct the staff to the correct course of action.

4 Reviewing communication

Whenever a system is used for recording data it should also be used to report on that data. Using a system as a mechanism for resolving issues is important however the ability to report on that data is equally so.

Reviewing data allows you to understand how often you have communication with your customer, there may be reasons why you might want to increase the contact and there may also be reasons why you might want to try and decrease it. If you never talk to a customer you may want to just have a quick call every 6-12 months to ensure everything is ok, this may help when you get to renegotiating a contract! You may want to decrease contact where a customer is consistently contacting you and you need to spend a large amount of time on this one account!

Using the data recorded you can find trends and possible root causes for issues, it may be you spot a number of customers calling about a similar point and if you found the root cause of the issue you could not only resolve the issues for the customers with the issue but also reduce future calls about the same.

5 Improve communication

With any process it is important to realise that it is organic and can be changed. A consistent review of your processes and procedures can help improve what you do and how you do it. Continous Improvement will help any business get stronger and grow, don't think because you have a customer strategy it is being followed by the whole business. Review all areas and see how it is working, what is good and what needs tweaking.

Without a customer service strategy you will struggle to keep your customers, no customers means effectively no business!

Martin Julyan
IMJ Software Ltd