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Cedric Pariente

IT and Market Finance

Cedric Pariente - Racine Alpha

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Importance of Customer Services during a Crisis

01 May 2009  |  7465 views  |  0

In 2009 "cutting costs" is on every CEOs/VPs lips and Customer Services are often the target of this policy.


Customer Services

What is it?

Everything is in the title. It's all about "Customer" and "Services". The Customer Services main goal is to enhance customers' experience/satisfaction of a product or a service. It starts with helping the client if he encounters any trouble with the product/service, but also includes training the client if required and help him improve his usage of the product/service.

Customer Services Extended Role

Due to the excellent knowledge CSR (Client Services Rep.) have of clients and their usage/behavior, they may also be included in the Account Management process. Some experienced CSRs might also leverage the integration of the product in customers' environment, especially if working in b2b. If the CSR detects a new usage or more potential users, he/she might up-sell new training sessions or new licenses.

The Customer Service is also a very good human resource for any company that requires Product Specialists. CSRs are always in an excellent position to pretend accessing to a PS job.

KPI (Key Performance Indicator)

What is it?

Key performance indicators are essential in Business Intelligence and Business Activity Monitoring approaches. They help the decision making process.

How to structure it?

KPI strongly depend on the business and the processes and activities of this business. However the general picture of the basic KPI is designed as follow:

Customer Related Numbers

  • Client Acquisition (New Customers)
  • Status of Current Customers
  • Client Retention (Lost Customers)

Breakdown by Category (depends on business)

  • Profitability
  • Geography
  • Currency
  • Demography
  • Contract Inception Buckets
  • ...

Why am I talking about KPIs?A well structured Customer Service with an appropriate CRM system is the best provider of KPI.

Company's Policy during a Crisis

As everyone knows, for each and every company, the problem in 2009 is purely and simply CASH.
Companies need cash to be able to run. They especially need it in times of crisis when the banks are not lending them as much or at all.

2 options when you need cash: increase the income and/or decrease the expenses.

Most of the time the "cut the costs" option is selected, because it's easy to implement and the short term effects are scalable. The downside is that the impact on the mid-term/long-term can be really harmful to the company. Customer Services are often hit when the costs are cut. This is a mistake. As a long term strategy, companies that go out of the crisis faster than the others and are in a better shape are those who invested (or maintained their investment) in Customer Services and Advertisement.

Why?

For a company, Advertisement is your word and Customer Services is your action.
Advertisement is important to let the people know out there that you are still alive and doing ok. Don't assume that they think you are, tell them. Customer Services are important to do what you say you're doing. Telling your customers and your potential new customers that you are ok is one thing.
Showing them is another one. Show to your customers that they are important to you. Bring them the best quality of service ever, especially during crisis time: Invest in your customers.

Critical Success Factor

CEOs & VPs are very familiar with this term. It defines all the criteria that are mandatory in order to succeed in a company.

In business as usual, they are often:

  • Cash (profit margins, positive cash flows)
  • Development (increase market shares, extend the activity to new domains)
  • Product Quality
  • R&D
  • Sales (Client Retention & Acquisition)
  • Strategic Partnerships (New Business Development)
  • Employee Attraction & Retention
  • Customer Satisfaction
  • ...

The list is not exhaustive. There are many critical success factors. Some are depending on the type of business, but a lot are common to any kind of activity.

In times of crisis, as a poker player would say, the cards you have in your hands are the same, but the flop is different. All of these goals are achievable if you have a reasonably clean treasury. But in times of crisis you really need to focus on what's important for the company: CASH & CUSTOMERS.

Customer Services is thus definitely one of the factors to insist on during a crisis. It is your customers that are going to take you out of the crisis, not "only" the market and its evolutions.
Your customers are the most precious asset you have to face these difficult times, so you must pay attention to them more than ever.

The best strategy in times of crisis is to offer a better quality of Service for the same price. It pays each time. (you already said it once before)

Bringing good Services is fine, bringing New Services is excellent. If you manage to bring new Services to your clients during the crisis, not only will you keep your clients for a long time, but you will also attract new ones. When your competitors are limiting the expenses while you invest in a better Service, guess who gets the pot?

Now is the time to re-think your approach, restructure all the non-optimal procedures and services. The end of the tunnel might be closer than you think if you adopt a real Customer Service Culture.

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job title Stanford Certified Project Manager
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I'm Cedric Pariente, a Stanford Certified Project Manager, working in both IT and Market Finance.

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