All In The Customer’s Eyes

By on August 6, 2014
All In The Customer's Eyes

We are excited to introduce a new blog series, “Through the Customer’s Eyes.” Follow our customer service expert Karin Fowler as she examines all types of customers and shares insight on how to serve them better, improving ourselves in the process by looking through their eyes.

Peter Drucker said:
The single most important thing to realize about any enterprise is that there are no results inside its walls. The results of a business are satisfied customers.”

Each and every one of us serves customers, whether we realize it or not. Maybe you’re on the frontline of a company, serving the people who buy your products. Perhaps you’re an accountant, or working in the Bursar’s office serving the employees by producing key and accurate information. Or maybe you’re a company owner serving your staff and your customers. The bottom line is all of us serve customers – not just the individuals with “customer service” in their job titles.

The goal of my blog series will be to look at all types of customers along with you and together learn how to serve them better and most importantly improve ourselves in the process. In order to do this, we must practice diligently looking at situations through our customer’s eyes. This takes practice but is worth it, I promise. So let’s get started!

Let’s start by thinking about what you are doing now to provide customer service and what you might do to improve your performance in the future.

Ask yourself:

  • What contribution do you make to customer service?
  • What would you like to change so that you could provide better customer service?
  • What are your customer service strengths?
  • What are your customer service weaknesses?

As you reflect on these questions remember that everyone in your organization provides customer service in some way even if they never have any direct contact with your customers. To understand what I am talking about let’s talk about some definitions. Yes, these are fundamental but very important even if they just serve as gentle reminders for you.

Who Are Customers?

A customer is, in this day and age, anyone who uses a service.

Although this has its logical extremes – you will find few people who are overjoyed by the idea of being a customer to a doctor, or their children a customer of their school, that description is as complete as you are likely to find for the term. Therefore everyone who relies on you to do a job to make their own job, their life or their use of a product easier is technically one of your customers.

Above and beyond that there are, naturally, different echelons of customers – internal and external, corporate and personal, regular and occasional. These are always people that you will be well-advised to keep happy, so customer service is an important – indispensable, one might say – element of any job in which you have customers. Keep in mind that customers are the source of your paycheck!

External Customers

External customers are anyone outside your organization that you interact with — not just the people who receives services from you.

External customers are what can be considered “traditional” customers:

  • They take our products and services and pay for them
  • They exist “outside” the confines of your organization
  • They are open to approach from your competitors
  • They may not always be dependent upon us, or loyal for products and services and may switch away to our competitors

Internal Customers

Internal customers include anyone in your organization who relies on you for services, resources, or information.

Providing excellent customer service to internal customers sets a positive tone for all personal interactions. If internal customers receive excellent customer service every day, they will consider this the norm. If they interact with external customers, they are likely to treat those customers the way they have been treated. Excellent customer service, like most types of human behavior, is contagious.

The quality of service you provide to internal customers ultimately affects the quality of service your organization provides to external customers. Even if you never interact with someone outside of your organization or your own department, you are still engaged in customer service. Internal customers are the people within your organization and or department who are dependent on you for:

  • Materials
  • Information
  • Instruction
  • Participation
  • Assistance

Without which they cannot perform their tasks to maximum efficiency, and this has either a direct or an indirect effect on the external customer.

What Is Customer Service?

Any action you take to ensure that a customer is pleased with the transaction on a long-term basis.

Customer service is one of the true business essentials. Everyone remembers the bad customer service they have had, and most will also remember instances of good customer service. The importance of customer service is recognized by all successful businesses, because it is possibly the number one element in customer retention. If you want to ensure that you get repeat business, looking out for the wishes and needs of your customer base is simply essential.

How you go about providing it is up to you, but there are certain elements which remain the same whatever the nature of your business. These are the principles of good customer service.

Who Are Customer Service Providers?

In any business, a customer service provider is someone whose performance of their role is important to the overall result for the customer.

Most customers will not care much for what happens behind the scenes in a company, so long as they are able to count on their needs being fulfilled. It is therefore the focus of every member of staff to see to it that their job is done without it being necessary for urgent action to be taken. The element of customer service that most customers will notice in any given transaction is that which happens in full view – how they are spoken to and how their inquiry is dealt with. But to get to that point, a number of other things also need to be done correctly. What they all have in common, however, is their importance to a business lies in their ability to do what is required of them, when it is required and how it should be done. Just about anyone can get one of these elements right, and most will be able to do two. Customer service providers have to get all three.

It could be argued that every staff member within your organization has an element of customer service provision within their responsibilities. It may be something as simple as ensuring that all supplies are in their proper place. It may be something that appears to be entirely divorced from your department such as the work of a security guard who keeps the facility you work in secure. One way or the other, all of this makes an impact on the customer’s experience, and getting it wrong may ultimately negatively impact your organization’s bottom line. Seeing the customer’s experience through their eyes will help you get it right and remain competitive.

Now that you have a foundation of definitions, a picture of their connectivity and an understanding of how they all positively or negatively impact the customer’s experience, start looking within your organization to see how customer interactions look like? Are they positive? What are some things you can do personally to improve the experiences of your customers? Remember customer interactions/experiences are not just face-to-face but also include phone conversations, email, and other online interactions. (More on this later for now just reflect on all the different ways your customers interface with your organization). What can you do to improve your own internal role and attitude during these interactions?

Speaking of attitude, stay tuned as it will be the topic for my next blog post. I welcome your feedback, reflections and/or questions, please feel free to email me or call me at 314-746-0872. In the meantime remember to keep seeing it through the eyes of your customer.

About Karin Fowler

Karin is the Senior Program Manager and Customer Service Business Practice Leader at St. Louis Community College, Workforce Solutions Group (WSG) Division, where she manages the Metropolitan Education Training (MET) Center. She manages and develops workshops in Customer Service, Career Development, Resume Writing, Interviewing and Leadership skills. She has been a Customer Service Business Practice Leader and Facilitator with the Workforce Solutions Group since July 1999. Karin has extensive experience in the areas of customer service development, training and delivery. In addition, she also manages on-site contracts to develop and deliver training for displaced and adult workers for coaching and career strategies. Karin consistently receives high praise on course evaluations with such comments as - “Karin’s inner personal attitude makes you want to be better,” “Helped me take a look at myself and helped me with better customer service; “Kept the audience involved” and “Karin re-integrated main points as examples during our group discussions and activities.”

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