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Customer Relations sample essay

How can organizations become more open to feedback? What kinds of employee training would help? What would you tell your employees about feedback importance if you were the boss?

Establishing Policy

An organization can become more open to feedback by practicing as part of its daily operations, a system of feedback receptiveness that encourage customers to complain. This system will also require employees to act on those complaints in productive ways. The more customers come to expect good responses from the organization, the easier it is to be that company that welcomes feedback. Paul R. Timm (2011) maintains that you create a good feedback climate by reinforcing customer behaviors, not by challenging them. If customers fear a debate or argument every time they voice a concern, they will quit giving feedback.

So he suggests the following:
-Compensate them or provide restitution for unsatisfactory product or service.
-Share their sense of urgency; get the problems handled quickly.
-Avoid further inconveniences.
-Punish someone for the problem (sometimes).
-Assure them the problem will not happen again. (Timm, 2003)

If companies can accomplish these first important steps, they will show customers and employees that they are serious about receiving feedback, establishing a dialogue, and keeping their customers. The feeling of engagement goes a long way toward earning allegiance and building confidence in management, but defensiveness against feedback will put you out of business. As a customer, I have had the best customer satisfaction in establishments that have a well-advertised customer service focus (Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, Starbucks, and Nordstrom’s Rack). The ones where employees know there’ll be mystery shoppers; that “corporate” takes its ALS seriously; that reward or recrimination depends on each customer interaction they have throughout the day; that the company who acts on complaints quickly, tactfully, and efficiently, wins!

Using Technology

By having third-party involvement as a neutral conduit between the customer (and employee) and the organization, frank and open communication can be achieved. It eliminates barriers to listening like interactional elements arising from listener self-centeredness and self-protection. The more the organization hears from its customers, the greater its responsibility becomes to act efficiently and swiftly. It can easily invite feedback and advertise itself as engaging and receptive with the use of listening system technology. Allegiance Technologies has developed a Web-based “active listening system” (ALS) that provides an exceptional turn-key customer and employee dialoguing tool. (Timm, 2011) It gathers complaints, compliments, questions, and suggestions, assures anonymity, and provides customers with a third party through whom they can feel safe blowing the whistle on their local Target, or long-time employer.

The anonymity feature makes the system especially useful for employees who may fear retaliation. E.g., in government-mandated processes for facilitating whistle-blowing on company misdeeds. Once the company responds to the feedback, the ALS system provides follow-up in order to measure customer loyalty and satisfaction. Additionally, companies must be sincere and accommodating when they use technology driven forums like feedback pages and social networking to invite customer feedback. If they can get the customers to feel good about giving it, then they would have scored a victory for customer satisfaction.

Employee Training

Training employees to get with the program should begin at the recruitment phase. John Mackey of Whole Foods looks for people who have a high degree of emotional intelligence — a high capacity for caring. (Mackey, 2009) The fact is you have to care about people to succeed at good customer service. The notion of getting the right people in is something that employers Wal-Mart and Southwest Airlines understand well. The right people tend to adapt quickly to the goals and mission of the company and training will be that much more effective. Organizations should consider the people that interact daily with customers, a most critical element of every corporate strategy. Despite numerous studies indicating a strong relationship between employee loyalty and customer loyalty, the average customer service representative stays an average of 18 months on the job. The onus is on companies to do more to upgrade the skills, training and pay of customer service representatives, especially since they handle an estimated 65% of all complaints.

To ensure compliance with its customer service goals, employers can use a variety of employee monitoring systems, such as mystery shopping. Traditionally this approach grew unreliable as findings were tainted by the subjective judgment of the shopper. However, with the use of digital video, mystery shoppers can evaluate the action through cameras hidden in their clothing. The images are digitally recorded and stored on a computer within 48 hours of the mystery shop. Managers can then sit down with employees and invite them to view the tape, and simply ask, “How do you think you did with that customer?” and sit back and listen. The employee gets the benefit of exceptionally clear, robust data—feedback that he or she may use to improve service skills. Feedback receptive organizations can take example from Whole Foods whose stores are like big amphitheaters intent on monitoring every aspect of customer service.

Ever notice how at Whole Foods no matter who you ask for help you always get an answer? The company tracks and analyzes employee/client encounters with digital video. A look to the sky in any Whole Foods store reveals a wide array of state-of-the-art “eyes in the sky” that are not just meant for shoplifters. This complete surveillance makes the company aware of the moves of every one of its agents and customers know it. The “unreasonable” customer will know that cameras will back her up in the event of a dispute, and she’ll have no fear of a debate or argument from the company. She’ll be confident that no-one will try to handle her, and that resolution will be swift because Whole Foods and others like it know that nothing impresses people as significantly as quick follow-up.

They also recognize that timing is critical when you get customer or employee input, and that early recovery is far easier than letting a bad situation fester and then trying to fix it. Moreover they do it consistently so that it becomes status quo for employees and customers alike, using a three-step process of feeling empathy, resolving the problem, and offering something more to exceed what the customer anticipates. (Timm, 2011) So when I failed to hear my name called as my coffee order was served, a Starbucks server eagerly offered to make me a new latte if mine wasn’t warm enough. Barely five minutes had that piping hot latte stood on the counter when I came to claim it, and I was happily taken aback by the show of concern from behind the register. Chalk one up for exceeding their expectations! This environment and culture is the one that customers will willingly engage, while happily paying $6.00 for coffee, or $4.00 for a tomato!

Chapter 9: Reviewing the Facts

Question 2

What are the three important steps needed to recover the potentially lost customer? The effort to satisfy unhappy customers to reduce defection, also known as Customer Service Recovery, is best handled when seen as an attitude of opportunity rather than a painful chore. Companies are highly motivated by some scary statistics: customers who experience poor service will tell seven to 13 others about it, and will continue to voice their dissatisfaction for up to 23 years. On the other hand, a satisfied customer will tell four or five others about a pleasant brand experience. One thing we can all agree on is; you want to keep a customer.

The best attitudes for a service provider to adopt stem from a desire for a win-win relationship with the customer; both parties want to feel good about the business transacted. This is not necessarily a “customer-is-always-right” attitude. Rather, it is more of a problem-solving non- blame-setting attitude. (Timm, 2011) Since dissatisfaction does occur, it can be useful to accept each event as an opportunity and a challenge, if you want to assure your customer that you want to strengthen your relationships with them.

It is also not bad for the bottom line– its impact on profitability can be substantial. Studies indicate that service recovery investments yield returns of 30%-150%. (Brown, 2000) Furthermore, British Airways calculates that their efforts to retain customers return $2 for every dollar invested. In fact, the airline finds that “recovered” customers give the airline more of their business. Likewise, Hampton Inn Hotels estimates that its service guarantee increased revenue $11 million and earned it the industry’s highest customer retention rate. (Wreden, 2003) An effective service recovery program occurs on two levels, the first of which is a three-step process that must be incorporated into customer service operations. The first step consists of both:

Apology and Accountability

Saying, “I’m sorry,” communicates an empathy with the customer, showing them perhaps that you feel their pain, and take ownership of a mistake, even if it’s because of supplier or other problems. The second step obliges the provider to:

Do everything in their power to resolve the problem.

This starts with clarifying exactly what the issue is in a caring manner that avoids interrogation. Responses must also be timely and the timetables for resolution should be a part of customer service policy. Customers appreciate any efforts you expended to solve their problem quickly. If a product needs to be replaced, do it now. If something needs to be repaired (or repaired again), give a high priority to scheduling such repairs. If a delivery has to be rescheduled, do it immediately and confirm it with the customer.

Customer expectations can be managed with resolution schedules; if you specify time frames for the next steps, customer satisfaction will increase by 40%. Previously cited British Airways research showed that 40%-50% of customers defected if it took the company longer than five days to respond. (Wreden, 2003) That said follow up is a key element in this step. The provider must determine whether the customer received the promised treatment, and, more importantly, how they feel about it. One study indicated that a follow-up call to a once unhappy customer can boost satisfaction by 5%-7%, and intentions to repurchase by 8%-12%.

Finally, giving something to the customer to make up for the problem they had, otherwise known as:

Symbolic Atonement

Often it cannot fully repair the damage, but it symbolically indicates that you are trying. It’s the “something extra” you give to appease the customer and help win him back. (Timm, 2011) Since atonement calls for having customer reps work directly with customers to determine an appropriate remedy, companies that encourage employee empowerment stand to gain by giving authority to employees to win customers back. Agents at Marriott International, for example, can spend up to $2,500 without authorization to compensate customers — a clear acknowledgement of not only the customer’s direct loss but also “pain and suffering.” Involving the customer in the process by seeking his ideas, “What can we do to make this better?” is wise, and might even lead to less costly solutions.

REFFERENCES

Brown, Stephen W. PhD. (2000). Practicing Best-In-Class Service Recovery: Forward-thinking firms leverage service recovery to increase loyalty and profits. Retrieved from http://www.mba.asu.edu/csl/upload/Service-Recovery-MM-2000.pdf Inc. Staff. (2009). Interview with John Mackey, CEO Whole Foods. Hiring Leaders. (Jul 1, 2009) Timm, Paul R., Introduction to Customer Service: Career Success Through Customer Loyalty 5th ed. (Prentice Hall, 2011) Wreden, Nick. (2003). How to Recover Lost Customers Noted Fusion Branding author details key steps to boost profitability by improving customer recovery. Retrieved from http://www.prweb.com/releases/2003/01/prweb54863.htm

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