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Problem- Solving Customer Service Prescription
Solve Problems When They are Small


 BY JAGDEEP KAPOOR

When customer concerns are not addressed at the initial stages, they turn into problems. And if these problems are not tackled when they are small, they sometimes cascade into gigantic issues that can cause immense pain to the customer. Addressing concerns at the outset, answering queries in a satisfactory manner and nipping problems in the bud really help clear the air for the customer. This is my Prescription No. 11, the Problem- Solving Customer Service Prescription.

A good Customer Service Professional is a solutions provider. An effective Customer Service Professional makes sure that he understands and appreciates the concerns, the difficulties and the apprehensions of the customer.

When the customer has a problem, he is actually looking for help from the Customer Service Professional. It is prudent, therefore, for the Customer Service Professional to ensure that he does not give the customer the cold shoulder. Neither should he ridicule the customer. He should address the problem in a professional manner and come up with a satisfactory solution, holding the customerís hand if necessary and even nursing him so that he can get on his feet again.

Look at this example of Customer Service in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) industry. In FMCG, the housewife (or adult or child) could be the consumer, while the distributor and retailer are customers of the company.

The company sells products to the distributor who in turn redistributes them to retailers from whom consumers eventually buy.

Thus the first customer of the FMCG company is the distributor. Ensuring distributor satisfaction is to ensure customer satisfaction at the first level.

At the second level, the customer is the retailer whose satisfaction is very important. Finally, and most importantly, there is the satisfaction of the consumer to reckon with. Those who consume the brand are the last level of the customer satisfaction chain.

A good Customer Service Professional makes sure that there is a pleasant Brand Experience and customer satisfaction at all three levels.

In one case, a distributor in Lucknow had a serious problem because his claims had not been settled by the company. This led to his working capital being blocked. In simple terms, it means that the distributor had run promotions and trade schemes in the market on behalf of the company and had not been reimbursed for his expenses. This put his finances through severe strain. He had been complaining about his problem for over six months but to no avail. Try as he might, he could not free his blocked capital.

The only recourse he saw was to stop making purchases from the company and this led to a large part Lucknow being starved of the companyís products.

In this case, if the problem of claims reimbursement had been solved on time, there would have been distributor (customer) satisfaction. He would then have been able to regularly pick up stocks and feed the market.

This would have ensured that the retailers were kept happy, with constantly replenished stocks of the companyís products. And regular supply would not have necessitated consumers switching to alternative brands due to unavailability

Abiding by my Problem-Solving Customer Service Prescription in a timely manner would have averted the ugly situation which saw the products of the FMCG company disappear from the shops in Lucknow.

Buying an apartment in Mumbai can be a harrowing experience if the vendor is not the problem-solving type. In one instance, the task at hand was to retrieve the sale documents which go to the Registrarís office and take an eternity to come back. Getting those documents back for the buyer can be like searching for a needle in a haystack.

But with a little help from the builder who knows the value of my problems-Solving Customer Service Prescription, it can be a cake walk.

Though he is not obliged to help in the recovery of the documents, the builder as a Customer Service Professional may choose to enhance the Brand Experience and make the life of the customer easier by lending a hand and putting the final seal on the completed sale deal.

Moved by the genuineness of his customerís problem he may extend his services to solve his customerís problems. If the customer is satisfied, the Customer Service Professional can rest assured that he has won him over. He knows that one satisfied customer means several more 3custopmers through the good word-of-mouth he earns from the satisfied customer.

My Problem-Solving Customer Service Prescription is like a stitch in time. It can save a lot if practiced before the problem festers.

The author is Brand Guru Jagdeep Kapoor, Managing Director of the successful Samsika Marketing Consultancy Pvt. Ltd.
Tel: 022 28477700 / 7701 Fax: 28477699 E-mail: jkapoor@samsika.com

Copyright © 2007 All rights reserved with Jagdeep Kapoor, Managing Director, Samsika Marketing Consultants Pvt. Ltd.
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