8 Strategies for First-Rate Customer Service

Good customer service starts with meeting customer needs: a trouble-free shopping experience and a smooth business transaction. Increasingly, it's also about anticipating and meeting their desires

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

August 8, 2007

3 Min Read
  • Converge your networks. Businesses can both reduce costs and enhance customer service by migrating voice and data infrastructures onto a single converged IP network. With a converged, integrated network, there is only one network to manage and one system on which to train technical employees and end users.

    It's estimated that by the year 2010, 40 percent of small and medium-sized companies will have integrated their entire voice and data networks into a single network and more than 95 percent of large and midsize companies will have at least started the process, according to Gartner, a market research firm.

  • Utilize IP Communication Tools. A large percentage of customer interactions still take place over the phone. Tools like integrated voice and data messaging help employees communicate more efficiently. Single Number Reach enables customers to connect to employees with a single call instead of multiple calls. IP communications-based rich media conferencing enhances collaboration between co-workers, partners, and customers.

  • Deploy a CRM solution. Customer interactions happen across multiple channels and departments. How can you easily manage all this activity? Customer relationship management (CRM) software is designed to collect, organize, analyze, and disseminate information about customers, including:

    • Purchases and returns

    • Buying habits and other behaviors

    • The products they own

    • The newer products they're likely to buy

    • Service contracts

    With CRM software, small and medium-size businesses can track performance across the entire organization. This includes business activity and employee performance for an inside sales team, call duration and first-call resolution in a contact center, and accurate invoice tracking and billing.

    All this information can be quickly communicated to management for more informed decision making.

  • Integrate IP Communications with CRM. The convergence of IP telephony with CRM solutions erases many of the obstacles to achieving a truly customer-centric company. By combing the two, employees can pull up contact information on the screen of any IP telephone on the network. Now employees in any department, such as accounting or shipping and receiving, can view the latest customer information and can better answer customer inquiries and look for cross sell or up sell opportunities. Because all the information can be provided to remote workers, companies can extend their workforce beyond the reach of traditional offices.

  • Continually modify: Every company, regardless of size, must track the performance of people, processes and workflows to determine how well they are delivering a satisfying customer experience. Here are some key questions to keep in mind.

    • Are we managing all our customer interactions well from first contact to last?

    • Can customer information be accessed by every one who needs it, wherever they are located?

    • Are we continually identifying the needs of individual customers and providing the best response to the right customers at the right time?

Loyalty into profits

"Businesses that fail to build their services and networks around the customer experience will experience high customer turnover, decreasing market share, and increasing cost due to fragmented business processes," says Ettenberg.

That's why smart companies are taking a customer-centric approach to longevity and profitability.

Eric J. Adams writes for Cisco Systems.

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