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What is your Vision?

Are your products so good that you never expect to get a call? Perhaps you think your product is so simple that you will never get a call. Perhaps your product is disposable and you don't expect to have any interactions with your customers. Of course all of these statements are delusional. Every product generates some reaction from customers. Even if customers only want to praise your fantastic product.

When a customer makes the effort to find the manufacturer, something is up. You have the upper hand here. Experience, Knowledge, History, and of course a detailed knowledge of the product specifications. It's important to leverage and use your knowledge, show your customers that you "got it right". So one vision might be: "Anticipate our customers issues and always have a ready solution"

What is your Strategy?

Well, with such an ambitions vision, we are going to need a powerful strategy. Anticipating customer issues, that means we corporately must remember every customer call that we get. We need to create a list of what our customers will need based on previous customer issues. Another way to look at this is to say that we will not "research" a problem twice. Once some customer has experienced a problem, our goal is to know /remember/ be able to deliver the best answer.

Think, in terms of the Internet. Say that you would like to adjust the gears on your new road bike. How do you do that? Writing a procedure would be very tedious, long, difficult and not the modern solution. Why not make a video? You could demonstrate the best procedure, perhaps show some of the pitfalls. Think that is just to big of a deal? Outside your comfort zone? Well, cruise on over to YouTube, do a search "adjust gears on a bike". Some of these are pretty amateur, BUT, they work! It's a solution that will make your customers happy, quickly, with very little effort. Think like the Internet works! I guarantee that if you sell bikes, some part of your client base will sing your praises, if you provide this kind of service after the sale.

Of course words are our first line of defense. But even still pictures can really convey huge amounts of information without big investments. Perhaps when you were growing up, working on cars, you had to do some repairs, remember the Chilton books? Wow, they had some bad pictures. Part of the problem was that color was to expensive to print, and part was that mechanics were not great photographers. Think what it's like now, with the Internet. I recently re-built the carburetor for my daughters Sea Doo. I did not have a book, but I did have a YouTube video, for the exact carburetor, with a shade tree mechanic warning me of the pitfalls. It was a piece of cake. The whole process was 1 hours work.

Measure your progress! Everyone says this sort of thing, but how do you really get there? Lets start with the basics. How many customer calls do you get in a day? Week? Month? Do you want that number to go up or down? More interestingly how many support calls do your get per item sold? Measuring the traffic on your customer support web site is pretty easy. Tools are available that will show you, which documents are referenced and how many times each document was displayed. These statistics will provide the information you need to fine tune your system to provide in-depth articles, guides, training, in the areas where your customer need is greatest. Use these tools to make it easier for customers to find those documents that are used the most!

Get and email address for every customer contact! Send an automated survey to every customer who contacts you. Ask questions which will help you fine tune your process. Sure part of the issue is to know that you helped them. Part of the goal is to give your customer support people accolades where they are deserved. The main goal is "To help you improve future customer service". So your questions should be to get suggestions. Was the information we provided straightforward? Did the information we provided meet your needs? How could we do better?

Don't forget sales! Existing customer are a wonderful source of new business. Much less expensive to acquire than a new customer. Many times support calls result in a new revision of your product, with existing problems solved. Perhaps in some cases you can steer or at least point out that your new product has improved. Perhaps consider offering a coupon or discount to those who call customer support. It might be an opportunity to direct ship product, avoiding all of those sales channels.

For more info check my sources:

Manufacturing: Modern customer service strategies  
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