WINNING THE CUSTOMER SERVICE WAR IN CYBERSPACE
The World Wide Web (www), cloud technology, dot.com, hash tags (#) among others are modern technological developments that brought changes on how customers view service providers in todays global market. Just as we see in space war where supersonic, ultra-high-speed space crafts are deployed in warfare and aliens from outer space constantly devising better means of overcoming advances in technology so as to win the war of survival also is thefight to win more customers, gain more of customers patronage and loyalty in the face of overarching competition whose battle field is now in the cyberspace.
The cyberspace for the purpose of this write up shall be defined as the area where the marketing and customer service war takes place and where the battle could be won or lost. Marketing practitioners propounded the concept of segmentation to mean the space where a product would like to play in or what Philip Kotler properly defined as Market €“segment scope that is the type of market or customers a company will serve. However, in todays business the customer service war is in the cyberspace a borderless arena with no umpire or a referee hence the fight could be messy like a winner takes all kind of a fight.
The cyberspace provides liberty to the customer to air his views freely, space allows for freedom of expression much more than the Genevas Convention. The cyberspace gives the customer the opportunity to broadcast his opinion about service experience much more than the reach of CNN, Sky News, Channel TV, Sahara Reporters and Aljazeera all put together.
OPPORTUNITY IN THE CYBERSPACE
I would not want you to view the cyberspace as the harbinger of doom but to rather see it as a world of opportunity to reach the global market, expand your trade and gain continuous patronage. However, a lesson that should be taken seriously is to know that like every business opportunity there are rules that must be observed and taken cognizance of.
To gain from the cyberspace you must simply see it as fire. A common rule of thumb is that fire is good when handled properly at the same time fire can be brutally dangerous when handled carelessly.
MUST ALL BUSINESSES PLAY THEIR GAME IN THE CYBERSPACE?
Modern business does not allow for in-between, you are either in or you are out. In the cyberspace arena, the customers do not require your permission to tell their service story. In as much as you are dealing with a customer that has access to a mobile or cell phone in the least then you are playing in the cyberspace. If you fail to take cognizance of this then you are playing with fire and carelessly too. The cyberspace is an all comers market that allows customer to tell their story whether good or bad.
WHAT ARE THE RULES FOR CYBERSPACE CUSTOMER SERVICE MANAGEMENT?
I will share five things that you need to know with respect to todays customer and the role of cyberspace in business promotion and effective customer service.
Do not under estimate the power of any customer. In the words of Chip R. Bell and John R. Patterson, todays customers are wired and dangerous hence under estimating what a customer that is dissatisfied could do is playing with fire and it is dangerous. A story was told of a pharmaceutical store in the US where a customer felt badly treated and went on to make a post on YouTube, the post as of today has been viewed by over 23,000 persons around the world with so much damage to the reputation of that store. A poorly trained staff that does not appreciate the value of customer might be sacked but in most cases, the dent on brand image and reputation would remain permanent.
Define your adaptive strategy in coping with Customers without a border. Most organizations stepped into the cyberspace without a specific strategy for adaptation thereby exposing their brands to cyber aliens, spam crawlers, cyber hawks and bad image amplifiers. A well-defined strategy would position an organization in areas of proactive customer service management, complaints resolution and managing negative emotion that could cause damage to the brand.
Invent, reinvent and promote a service covenant that brings joy to the customers. Have a sense of unbroken quality customer service at every point of engagement with the customer. Understand fully well that it is not a right to have the customer come to your business, it is a privilege to have him bring his custom to you hence such opportunity must be treasured and held in high esteem. Ironically too, todays customer who felt unjustly treated just dont walk away but would go with the duty of helping other customers not to fall into the same trap by broadcasting their unpalatable experience thereby damaging your brand reputation.
Train your front line staff and back line staff to have an owners mindset. We should come to term with the fact that customer service in the cyberspace is not the exclusive reserve of the front desk personnel that is programmed for the occasion but an organization-wide responsibility. From the gate attendants to the janitors they must have a good sense of customer service because a slip on their part might cause the organization an irreparable damage. They all need the basic understanding of the fact that it is the customers that pay their salaries at the end of each month.
Serve all customers with passion, with empathy, and with a high level of energy. We must understand that each customer has Zone of Tolerance ( ZOT) which can expand or contract depending on his or her service experience and state at a particular point in time. When we treat customer passionately well and with empathy, we tend to have the best of them. A customer with a contrasted ZOT would likely repeat his or her call and would most likely remain a loyal customer.
Utilize the CRM Tools. Whether they are suspects, prospects, disqualified prospects, first-time customers, repeat customers, converted clients, members, advocates or and ultimately partners it is of paramount importance that you keep the record of your customers. When such information is available it becomes a ready tool to track, update and follow up with all visitors to our business premises particularly as it gives us quick information on disaffected customers and how to quickly resolve their grievances before its degenerates.
The cyberspace has succeeded in bringing the global market to us offering better opportunity, increased sales, knowledge expansion, and product improvement strategies. Side by side with this is the fact that it has also offered customers the opportunity to become brand advocates and broadcasters of services with the use of simple and pocket-friendly gadgets.
While we look at the good sides of the cyberspace we should also take cognizance of the fact that a customer that is aggrieved with your service or with the way he or she is treated can cause your brand untoward damage without a blink. Ironically too, sometimes these customers are without face or name on the cyberspace.
I personally advocate for better awareness of the challenges of modern businesses in the face of change and ever increasing technology.Effective training, attitude modification and change in behavior pattern would support better customer service.
Thank you for permitting me to share my thoughts with you.
• H-CRM The key to Lifelong Business Relationship by Dallol Das 2004
• Marketing Management: Millennium Edition by Philip Kotler, Prentice €“ Hall of India, 2000
• Training and Development April 2014. A publication of Association of Talent Development.
Kayode Ibukunoluwa-Micah is the Managing Director of Rosk and Chene Consultants Limited and a Partner in Darach Associate and Marketing Consulting Nigeria Limited. He is a certified trainer with a penchant for Customer Service, Customer Relationship management, and HRM.
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