Sara Lee Bakery's customer service division knows what it takes to win and keep customers.
The division took home the Gold award from the 12th Annual U.S. Grand Prix Customer Service Awards conducted this year by Teleperformance. The team, consisting of seven members, won based on excellent combined phone and e-mail support services.
"We respond to every customer the same," says Elizabeth Tanis, customer service manager of consumer affairs at Sara Lee. "This is verification that we're on track and exceeding the consumers' expectations."
Tina Tomberlin, marketing
coordinator at Teleperformance, says her company chose a total of 105 random companies and divided them into 12 industry categories. Teleperformance then acts as a silent shopper, sending 10 e-mails and making between 20 and 25 phone calls per company. The company evaluates the service teams on 10 counts, ranging from such areas as overall attitude, sales awareness and effective e-mail responses. The Diamond award went to Furniture.com, representing the
e-commerce industry, and Nordstrom.com received the Silver award in the retail division. There were also 23 winners that received awards in either the e-mail or phone categories.
Tanis says she believes her employees received the highest overall scores because they are empowered, know the customer is king and understand the products. "Nowadays the customer expects you to be knowledgeable. We know handling, shelf life... Let's suppose we don't have the answer- -the key is to follow up," Tanis says. "I think companies that listen to customers succeed."
She credits ongoing training and testing (the team even bakes pies to learn the process and ingredients), as well as a constant positive attitude, for her team's top-notch service. Going the extra mile also helps to make loyal customers. Once, a customer commented on a hairdo on an actress in a Sara Lee commercial. The customer service associate called the advertising agency, which then mailed a copy of the actress' photo to the customer. Another time, Tanis helped a graduate student with a business project by talking to her extensively about the company. The student received an A.
"You want customers to keep coming back to you and to feel good about the company," Tanis comments. "It's less expensive to keep current customers than to get new customers."