Manage Quality Customer Service II

 

This is the second article in a two-part discussion around the subject of quality customer service. The series is an amalgam of thought and where appropriate and possible I have acknowledged the source of the material contained in the articles. The discussion is premised on the need to understand the critical elements of customer service and the functions of management to manage the quality of the experience for the customer.


Previously I discussed the five management functions of planning, organising, staffing, leading and monitoring. In this article I address the dimensions of quality customer service.



2. QUALITY SERVICE



We can all recall those personal experiences where we have been on the receiving end of negative customer service and sometimes may be a positive experience.

What is it that makes our experiences negative or positive? What are the key aspects? If we can identify them and see if they are common to all service quality then we have a clear starting point to manage the experience for the customer.



SERVICE QUALITY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER.


“…the customer perceives service in her/his own terms. The customer alone pays the freight (or doesn’t) for what ever reason or collection of reasons he or she chooses. Period. No debate. No contest.”



Someone has said that customer perception of service is judged according to five dimensions, reliability, responsiveness, assurance, empathy and tangibles.


2.1 Reliability



Reliability is the ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately.



2.2 Responsiveness



Responsiveness is the willingness to help customers and provide prompt service.



2.3 Assurance



Assurance encompasses the knowledge and courtesy of employees and their ability to convey trust and confidence



2.4 Empathy



Empathy encompasses the concerned, individualised attention provided to the customer



2.5 Tangibles



Tangibles relate to the appearance of physical facilities, equipment, personnel, and communication medium





3. PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER



The five dimensions apply in all circumstances whether the business is operating from a physical location or on-line.

Some of the key questions that need to be asked are:

Are we addressing the five dimensions of quality in our planning?

Are we organising our operations according to the five dimensions of quality?

Are our staff given the resources and the training to perform in accord with the five dimensions of quality?

Are we communicating the direction we are taking and the improvements we are seeking to achieve in the five dimensions of quality?

Do we have in place monitoring systems that measure our performance in each of the five dimensions of quality?

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Manage Quality Customer Service I

This is the first in a two-part series of discussions around the subject of quality customer service. The series is an amalgam of thought and where appropriate and possible I have acknowledged the source of the material contained in the articles. The discussion is premised on the need to understand the critical elements of customer service and the functions of management to manage the quality of the experience for the customer.



1. Five Management Functions



Managers’ skills and activities to get the job done have been traditionally grouped into five functional areas, planning, organising, staffing, leading and monitoring.



Planning > Organising > Staffing > Leading > Monitoring


1.1 Planning



Planning involves establishing a goal and objectives and deciding how best to achieve them. What needs to be accomplished? By when? What needs to be done to make it happen? Who is best equipped to do it?



As the saying goes, ‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail’



Things don’t happen by themselves. They need to be planned. And remember a goal without an action plan is a wish!



Planning also involves innovating. Continual improvements, however small, are an imperative. No matter how well things are done now, failing to make improvements is a recipe for disaster in an uncertain business environment.



1.2 Organising



People, materials, equipment, machines, time and money are all resources. They need to be arranged and coordinated so that the plans can be successfully carried out.



1.3 Staffing



It is often said that people are an organisation’s most valuable resource. They need to be attracted to the organisation, recruited to join it and trained to do their jobs effectively. They need to be treated well so the organisation retains them, because losing employees is expensive.



This function is becoming increasingly important as labour becomes scarce, knowledge and expertise more valuable, and businesses organise themselves in different ways to meet the challenges of the global environment.



1.4 Leading



Effective leadership is concerned with supporting, guiding, influencing and inspiring others. Setting a good example, developing team spirit, involving and motivating people, and building morale are a few of the important leadership skills. The leading function consumes a large part of most managers’ time and, like the staffing function, it is becoming increasingly important.



1.5 Monitoring



‘How are we doing?’ is the monitoring question. Are we operating within budget? Are we meeting production and sales targets? Are our plans progressing as expected? ‘Keeping tabs’ on things by watching critical control points and sensitive spots alerts us to potential problems so we can take corrective action in plenty of time.

(Cole, K, 2001, Supervision: The Theory and Practice of First-Line Management, Second Edition, Prentice Hall, Australia).