Customer Service Quality Concepts ­ A Marketing/Business Perspective

By James A. Schauer, F.C.Inst.M.,
Easton Marketing Services Ltd

In recent years, thanks to Tom Peters, Karl Albrecht and Jan Carlzon, there has been a growing awareness of the importance of good customer service. Yet, several more recent research studies point to a general decline in customer service. In large part, this decline is due to not understanding the human dimension business and so-called marketing; yet it doesn¹t have to be this way. Ironically, it is in the design and delivery of service quality that small and medium-sized businesses have a major advantage over larger corporations, in that they are closer to their customers, allowing them to be more responsive.

In essence, businesses exist to make money. As we know, the real world isn't quite that simple, because without customers there is no business. Most businesses thus respond by becoming customer-focused and aiming for high levels of customer satisfaction. Yet, in today's competitive business world, where 70% of satisfied customers are not also loyal, aiming for high satisfaction levels is no longer good enough. The resulting turnover can be very costly and may affect the future viability of the business. From a marketing perspective, the key to success lies in a balanced approach to meeting four objectives:

1. Developing a growing core of loyal customers.

2. Making a profit.

3. Dealing with competition.

4. Using innovative solutions to survive in an environment of constant change.

These four needs are consistent with what we now know as the "Balanced Score Card."1

Who are your customers?

A somewhat simplistic answer to this question is often given as "anyone who receives or uses our product or service, involving both external and internal customers." Similarly, marketers are often asked: "What is your target market?" In this case, the question itself is also wrong, in that marketing is concerned not as much with markets, but with people. It would thus be more appropriate to begin with: "Who are your customers, and why?" In business and service quality practice it has become all too common to focus on organizational issues, which then takes us away from what is really important. It is then hardly surprising that nearly 70% of all recent quality improvement, re-engineering and restructuring initiatives have failed to satisfy their sponsors, largely due to disregarding the human dimension. 2, 3 The market then is people (where marketing is concerned with people), understanding and managing relationships to retain present and future customers.

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