“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises; he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so”. ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Indeed, Customers are the lifeblood of any organization. Many organizations include Customer satisfaction as their motto but how many of them live that is a question. Equally important is to realize that a satisfied customer may not be a loyal customer, at best, they are neutral. What we should try to achieve is to create loyal customer and only a delighted customer is loyal customer. Only when you exceed the expectations of the customers they become loyal and customer expectations keeps increasing based on demands on their jobs and support experience from other suppliers including but not limited to your competitors. Typically, what do the customers expect? They expect services that are Excellent, Effortless, less expensive and hassle free besides products that are of good quality, reliability and performance that helps them improve their productivity and performance.

Product differentiation is diminishing with technological advances and price difference is narrowing with operational excellence. What can differentiate your organization with competitors is your customer support. Today’s customers are not only looking for superior product and technology at competitive prices but unforgettable service that makes them successful and confident. Customers will soon forget the price and the initial problems they encountered in getting the product fully functional but they will always remember how you treated them when they had a problem and needed urgent support from you. Any customer that walks away, disrespected and defeated represents thousands of dollars’ worth lost business, in addition to the failure of a promise the brand made in the first place.

There are only three ways to organically grow the business. Increase the number of customers, Increase the average value of a sale per customer and Increase the frequency of purchase. Besides good products, the only way to achieve these objectives are by providing legendary support and creating loyal customers who give repeat business. In today’s declining economy and highly competitive market when business and margins are constantly on the decline the best option for companies to survive is to focus on the service business as well. There are many advantages on this approach.

  • Stable revenue streams that smooths out cyclical system business.
  • Better margins than system business.
  • Excellent service is a competitive differentiation and advantage.
  • Customer loyalty and repeat business.

Excellent Customer support provides a critical competitive advantage in today’s increasingly competitive and commoditized marketplace. Being on par in terms of price and quality only gets you into the game. Superior Support wins the game. However, Customer expectations are constantly on the rise and companies are finding it challenging to meet those expectations. In the analytical industry, if you are selling high value product, your customers expect lifelong free service and instant resolution to any problem by faster response time and minimum downtime. Whereas most companies are trying very hard to increase their service revenues as their margins in system sales is declining constantly. What are the options?

  • Value added services – Analyse the challenges of your customers and you will find many avenues to create a special service to earn revenue. In the Indian context, some examples are
    • Training and development – as attrition rates are extremely high and business growth is generally in double digits, addition of new work force is a continuous process and to be productive they need training.
    • Validation and regulatory support – If your customer base includes pharmaceutical customers, they may need such a support from your organization.
  • Service contracts – you could offer comprehensive service contract with all spare parts covered and a higher version of the same that includes consumable parts as well.
  • Besides installation, OQ/IQ/PQ services, you can also offer disposal services at the end of the life of the system. In between upgradation/modernization, firmware and software upgrades, etc. could be offered at specific cost.
  • Routine maintenance with health check-up of the system could be planned at pre-determined intervals.

Customer service means anything that touches a customer―directly or indirectly and it is so much more than just solving problems or addressing complaints. Every interaction with your company, whether offline or online, is another opportunity for your customers to determine if you are exceptional or not, which ultimately decides your business success and growth.

What steps are to be taken to ensure that your organization is ready to provide legendary support to your customers?

  • Good strategy, excellent execution and focus make any organization successful. If you want superior customer service as the main differentiator, create a strategy and vision to promote and support that process.
  • Create a customer oriented mission statement and brand image and ensure all the employees ‘live the brand’. Employees from top to bottom must walk the talk of the brand promise. Managers are responsible for enforcing this, but more importantly, for leading by example.
  • Train your front line employees, your ‘Brand ambassadors’, who meet your current and potential customers every day. It is said that technical competence contributes only 50% to the customer satisfaction but equally important is customer management skills. Most companies focus on providing technical training but only few focuses on preparing them for customer management skills.
  • Create meaningful service metrics and monitoring mechanism with action plans to make instant corrections when deviations are detected. Obtain regular feedback from customers as well as service delivery team and initiate corrective actions on the most critical and common issues.

We often equate giving good service with creating customer satisfaction. However, excellence in customer service is about creating customer loyalty. Knowing the difference between satisfaction and loyalty is the first step in developing customer focused excellence in your organization. If you have acquired customers by offering lower price, the relationship is only transactional and they will leave when someone else offers a better price. If customers have joined you because of superior support and value addition, these will remain loyal, and buy more from you in future.

KV Venugopalan

If you want to know how good your company’s products are, attend your competitor’s sales meeting. And if you want to know how bad is their product attend their Support Executives meeting. And this behaviour is universal. Why?

Those at the senior management level might say that we are our worst critic and such unique behaviour is essential for development. If objective self-assessment is the purpose, I am in full agreement; however, the real fact is entirely different. In real life self-deprecate something is to belittle it or downgrade it. That is, to reduce its perceived status, importance, and value.

Every Marketing or Sales person must know that their job is to sell whatever products that are available in their sales desk. Efforts should be made to find ways and means, positioning strategies and market opportunities to maximise their business. Instead, a major part of the sales meeting time is wasted in praising the competitors’ products and criticising our own products. Since this behaviour is universal, we must go deeper into the causes and suggest alternate solutions to optimise the meeting time to make it productive.

What are the possible causes of such behaviour?

  1. A genuine self-assessment to understand our strengths, weaknesses, and that of our competitors so that marketing and sales strategy could be fine-tuned accordingly.
  2. An insurance policy for the sales team, in case they fail to meet their sales budget. A maladaptive strategy to protect the self.
  3. A constant fear and sense of insecurity
  4. Standard cry of those who blame everything else other than themselves when things go wrong in their life.
  5. Refusing to admit that they are responsible: Some people cannot admit failures and mistakes so they blame others for them in order to escape from the responsibility.

Such behaviour is seen at individual level also. While it is acceptable to be humble, stretching it too far becomes self-deprecating and is considered a negative attribute. People with self-deprecating behaviour often compares themselves with others and feel inadequate and ashamed of themselves. Depression is a possible outcome.

How to overcome such thoughts and behaviour so that every one of us becomes confident and proud of ourselves. There is a very important stanza in Bhagavad Gita that explains this behaviour

uddhared atmanatmanam, natmanam avasadayet

atmaiva hy atmano bandhur, atmaiva ripur atmanah

bandhur atmatmanas tasya, yenatmaivatmana jitah

anatmanas tu satrutve, vartetatmaiva satru-vat

A man must elevate himself by his own mind, not degrade himself. The mind is the friend of the conditioned soul, and his enemy as well. For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his very mind will be the greatest enemy.

What happens in organizations? If you do not get the expected promotion or salary increment, you blame others, your boss, your colleagues or the organization itself for its policies and everything else. But never yourselves! There is a proverb, which says that, “A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because her trust is not on the branch but on its wings. Always believe in yourself….”. Generally, people feel inadequate, doubtful and afraid and look outside for support to achieve things or positions in their life. That is a wishful thinking. There is only one person responsible for your growth or downfall. That is yourself.

So how do we elevate ourselves and be our best friend as the Gita says. Here are some of my tips.

  1. Have confidence in yourself. We are all unique in our own ways and have our destiny to achieve. Do not compare with others or try to do what others do. Find your own path and reach your destined destination.
  2. Success is first achieved in our minds. Plan, prepare and work hard towards achieving your success. If you do not know where to go and what to do, start with reading books. There are plenty of very useful books such as Success through Positive Mental Attitude, Think and Grow Rich, 7 Habits of Highly effective people, The Power of Positive Thinking, Who moved my cheese, Eat that Frog, etc.
  3. Work hard to achieve Technical knowledge and expertise, Professional skills and positive attitude, attributes essential for success.  
  4. Practice self-discipline. Waking up early, regular exercise, proper meals and rest, meditation, etc. helps you keep both physically and mentally fit.
  5. Keep on improving every day. Find your weak points and work hard to eliminate those. Seek regular feedback from people who matter or a mentor, coach.
  6. Set big goals and stay focused.
  7. Energy, enthusiasm, inspiration and perspiration. These are essential for success.
  8. Develop good habits, eliminate bad habits and practice time management.
  9. Celebrate success.

You are unique and be proud of yourself!