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Customer Service Excellence
The sales and service balance of power has shifted squarely toward customer satisfaction.
Posted Mar 1, 2005
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Customer opinions and expectations have played an increasingly focal role in business over the past three decades, forcing entire industries to rethink their sales and service approach. As recently as the early 1960s corporations made decisions about their products and services essentially in a vacuum, giving little thought to buyer interests and preferences. The dynamic is markedly different today. Fueled by government legislation, heightened foreign competition, the Internet, and other factors, the balance of power has shifted squarely in favor of customer satisfaction. The competitive landscape has been altered as a result. Product manufacturers, service providers, dealerships, resellers, and salespeople now must distinguish themselves in the eyes of the most informed and empowered customers in history. In a study conducted by J.D. Power and Associates 21 percent of respondents indicated poor customer service as a reason to reject an automotive dealer without further consideration. Also, very satisfied customers tend to recommend a car dealer to 3.4 people on average in the first three months of new-vehicle ownership, while very dissatisfied customers tell nearly five people, on average, not to do business with that dealer. The bottom line is that across all industries, dealers who differentiate themselves through best-in-class customer satisfaction stand to gain a competitive edge by instilling brand loyalty, ultimately drawing prospects and boosting sales. Dealers who compete successfully in this regard share certain characteristics, the most important one making a genuine commitment to sales and service satisfaction. Dealers can also look at how their counterparts in other industries instill customer loyalty and borrow some best practices from them. One effective way that dealers have found to demonstrate their differentiation in the marketplace is through third-party independent ratings. For example, J.D. Power and Associates has a certified dealer program in place with Kyocera Mita America that assesses a document processing dealer's sales and service interactions with copier customers. Independent researchers collect actual customer responses to a battery of sales- and service-related interview questions, evaluate the results, then compare dealer scores against national benchmarks for customer satisfaction. Only those Kyocera dealers who meet or exceed the identified benchmark index score earn the J.D. Power Certified Dealer designation.
Taking care of customers has always been imperative in the dealer channel. Customer satisfaction requires that you show concern for customer needs and act reasonably and honestly in your dealings with them as you handle all aspects of the interaction, from the customer's initial business inquiry through her use of your company's offerings. In short, it means providing a level of service that recognizes and respects the fact that customers have choices in any industry. About the Author George Owens is a director, retail office systems and technology, J.D. Power and Associates, where he is responsible for providing expert design and analysis in the interpretation of study results. Mr. Owens is looked to for the formulation and presentation of actionable recommendations to meet client specific needs for marketing information. For more information, go to www.jdpowers.com
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