The Institute of Customer Service offers a vision of an organisation which delivers customer service excellence.
‘The organisation is honest, gives good value for money, has a high reputation, meets deadlines, has quality products and services, has easy to understand processes, responds to criticism, encourages complaints and handles them well, and demonstrates that it is passionate about customers. At all levels people are respected, well trained, friendly, contactable, flexible, knowledgeable, honest, trusted, stable, involved and consistent. The perceived culture is one of professionalism, efficiency, teamwork, caring, respect, seriousness, but with a touch of fun and character.’
Recently, with the recognition of the importance of customer focus at a strategic level, the term ‘customer service’ has been extended to cover pre-transaction and post-transaction activities across an entire organisation and not only the customer service unit. This means that customer service not only covers the ‘traditional’ activities like Answering enquiries, Handling customers visits to sites or premises, Handling customer complaints, Gathering customer feedback, etc., it now also extends to cover a wider range of activity now loosely coined ‘customer care’. This aims to close the gap between customers’ expectations and their experience in every aspect of the customer-supplier relationship.
The role of procurement in the organisation delivering superior customer experience to its external customers is in its excellence to deliver the same excellence to its internal customers. It is important to remember that internal customer service has a knock-on effect on external customer service. If purchasing fails to secure timely delivery from suppliers, the internal supply chain will be affected – and the finished ‘products’ may not reach customers when promised. If purchasing fails to specify and manage technical purchases effectively, customer service processes may suffer from inefficiency or technical problems, causing delays and errors. And so on. The internal customer concept implies that any unit of the organisation whose task contributes to the tasks of other units (whether as part of a process, or in an advisory, support or service relationship) can be regarded as a supplier of goods and services like any other supplier. That is each link in the value chain is a customer of the one before.
One of the most difficult yet also one of the most rewarding aspects of customer service is seeking to delight the customers. Understanding customers expectations and meeting (or even exceeding) them is a proven recipe for sustained success. The procurement unit in helping to achieve this objective must manage its internal customers expectations by following the cardinal rules of customer service. Promise excellence only if you can deliver it.The business must keep promises to retain customer loyalty and trust.
Refusing to meet expectations of quality, service level, delivery time or even friendliness can cause customers to be less than happy with the service even if all other contractual requirements are met. The purchasing unit must set expectations that can be repeatedly met. The advantages of setting expectations of excellence are that it helps to make the sale, gains customer approval, wins stakeholder acceptance, and ensures repeat external customers when these expectations of excellence are met. Communicate properly and effectively with stakeholders and like with external customers, explicit service promises are always kept!
Author: Morenike Ayeni
- On April 24, 2017
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