Pub. Date:
Prentice Hall
Customer Service: a Practical Approach / Edition 3

Customer Service: a Practical Approach / Edition 3

by Elaine K. Harris


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780130978530
Publisher: Prentice Hall
Publication date: 07/05/2002
Edition description: Older Edition
Pages: 164
Product dimensions: 7.90(w) x 9.90(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Elaine Harris grew up in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a Bachelor of Science in Arts and Sciences, majoring in Fashion Merchandising. The following year she graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma with her Master of Education degree in Adult and Secondary Education, majoring in Marketing Education.

Elaine has extensive experience in retail and retail management and began her teaching experience at Oklahoma Junior College in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In 1988 she began teaching Marketing and Fashion Merchandising at Tulsa Junior College in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Tulsa marketplace began to attract jobs in the area of customer service and saw numerous call centers open for business. Elaine researched and created, with industry support, the Customer Service Program at Tulsa Community College. This program has assisted in the training of hundreds of customer-focused employees in the Tulsa metropolitan area. Elaine has served on several city and regional task forces to identify the training needs and to develop appropriate training to meet the growing customer service employee needs. Elaine currently serves as a consultant and is a frequent guest speaker and trainer in the areas of customer service and marketing throughout the region.

When she is not occupied with writing or consulting, Elaine stays busy with her two young children. She is also an encourager to her husband in his growing telecommunications management consulting business, Beacon Telecommunication Advisors, LLC.

Table of Contents

1. What Is Customer Service?
2. The Challenges of Customer Service.
3. Problem Solving.
4. Strategy and Formulating a Plan for Success.
5. Empowerment.
6. Communications in Customer Service.
7. Coping with Challenging Customers.
8. Motivation.
9. Leadership in Customer Service.
10. Customer Retention and Measurement of Satisfaction.
11. Delivering Customer Service to the Changing Marketplace.
12. Excellence in Customer Service.
Sources of Other Information.


Customer service is an integral part of doing business today. Customer service providers must have adequate preparation to interact effectively with today's customers. This preparation does not happen magically. It is the result of a commitment to increased understanding of the customer service industry, knowledge of current trends, ability to interpret those trends, and development of the fundamental skills necessary to achieve excellence.

A new generation of customer service providers is emerging. This new generation is excited about what they can offer their customers and how they can help their organizations accomplish goals. They eagerly accept the challenge of expanding their understanding of the business world. These customer service providers are well educated, open to new ideas, adaptable, and motivated; in addition, they possess superior communication skills and have an enlightened understanding of the multicultural marketplace in which business is conducted. Technology is an opportunity for greater efficiency and a tool to more effectively meet the ever-changing needs of customers. The desire for additional knowledge reflects a commitment to personal and professional growth.

Customer Service: A Practical Approach was created in response to the need for increased customer service and for qualified customer service professionals. Those with a desire to develop an increased knowledge of key concepts in customer service will benefit from the organized and concise layout. Customer Service is unique because it allows the reader to examine the dynamics of the customer service industry while also providing exercises to develop the skills necessary to compete.It transcends superficial elements and focuses on the skills and strategies that lead to successful implementation of customer service.

Customer Service: A Practical Approach tackles the important issues facing customer service providers and customer service managers today. Individual success is contingent on how effectively fundamental skills are mastered and carried out. In addition to important content, special emphasis is placed on self-assessment and the mastery of those skills and abilities that are missing from the average employee's resume. Today's workforce must continue to improve upon the skills that provide tangible evidence of individual and corporate productivity.

Chapter 1 answers the question, "What is customer service?" The concept of satisfaction is explained and the reasons why excellent customer service is so rare are explored. Every customer has needs on which they place a great deal of importance. Providers must have the ability to assess customer needs and begin the process of need satisfaction.

In Chapter 2 the barriers to customer service are explained. Some of the most obvious barriers to the provision of excellent customer service are within the control of the customer service provider. How do businesses begin to understand the expectations and perceptions that their customers bring into a customer/ provider relationship? Reputation management describes the attempt to identify how a company is perceived and establishes an action plan to follow to maintain or enhance the reputation of the business.

Customer service is such a common topic of discussion; it is shocking how little focused attention is directed at the actual accomplishment of customer satisfaction. Credibility is crucial as we interact with our internal and external customers, but conveying credibility is not always easy. By following basic tips for conveying credibility, customer service providers can actively express believability and professionalism.

Creative problem solving skills assist those interacting with customers to determine appropriate solutions to challenges. The role of problem solving in customer service is explored in Chapter 3.The solution of problems is not an impossible goal if those facing the problem are equipped with an active understanding of how to work through the problem and choose an effective solution.

Chapter 4 defines what a strategy is and how a well developed strategy can provide opportunities for customer service excellence. The role of infrastructure is explained and the reader is challenged to identify infrastructure requirements that are not being met. If an appropriate infrastructure is not in place, customer service goals will not be met, regardless of how much providers want to provide excellent service. Understanding the concept of creating a customer service culture can provide employees with a positive work environment that encourages the provision of excellent customer service. When developing a strategy, goals must be established, customers must be divided into serviceable groups, plans must be made, and a timetable for evaluation must be defined.

We hear a considerable amount of talk about the importance of empowerment, yet surprisingly few mangers really know what it means and how to empower their employees. Chapter 5 explains how empowerment can positively impact a provider's ability to serve the customer. Customers can participate in providing their own customer service, and they frequently want to be involved in the process. Systems must be designed so that customer service is allowed to happen. All too often, the very companies claiming to provide the best service are, in reality, not providing it and could not provide it no matter how hard they try. Why? Because the system they have in place does not encourage customer service.

Chapter 6 defines what communication is and how effective communication can enhance customer relations. Customer intelligence can assist organizations in recognizing how to communicate with customers most effectively and how to develop a foundation of understanding of the business. Most customer service situations require superior listening skills. The proper voice inflection can enable individuals to convey messages, in a more professional manner. And by using appropriate words the customer service provider's message can be both positive and professional. Technology has significantly impacted the world of communications. These new technological opportunities can enhance productivity and can result in increased accuracy.

Everyone has at some time encountered an individual they found challenging. Chapter 7 examines who those challenging customers are. In a unique approach, ten characteristics of challenging customers are explained. Helpful suggestions for positive interaction and techniques for challenge resolution are provided. Empathy and respect play an important role in relating to challenging customers, but the ability to express empathy and show respect is not instinctive.

Customer service can be a very rewarding profession, but frequently individuals must find their own motivation as they pursue the rewards. Self-esteem varies from one individual to another. Chapter 8 explains what motivation is and offers suggestions for self-motivation and techniques for motivating others. Some of the keys to increased motivation are to focus on past successes, to take care of ourselves, to practice teamwork, and to spend time with positive people. Other keys to increased motivation reveal that the opportunities for motivation are largely within each individual's control.

The most recognizably outstanding companies are known for their excellent leadership. The leaders of an organization have the ability to create an interdependent culture that continually reminds employees that aspiring to success is a group activity. Chapter 9 profiles the characteristics of excellent leaders and stresses the benefits of goal setting. New-generation leaders are designing new methods to reinforce training to benefit both employees and customers.

The fact that it is much more costly to attract new customers than it is to maintain current customers has been recognized for many years. In spite of this knowledge, numerous organizations have had few formal programs in place to keep customers active. Chapter 10 explains the concepts of customer retention, churn, defection rate, and customer lifetime value, along with how to tell if you need to improve your customer retention program and how to establish a customer retention program. The periodic measurement of customers' satisfaction keeps customer retention programs on target.

Keeping up with and delivering customer service to the changing marketplace is the focus of Chapter 11. New technologies are emerging and customers are using them to enhance their daily lives. This raises the expectation of how the customer service industry will respond to customers. The growth of call centers, the Internet, and e-mail all indicate that customers have a desire to use these innovations themselves as well as to be served through them.

Chapter 12 pulls together the material presented in the first eleven chapters and challenges the reader to continue the process of seeking excellence in customer service.

In addition to the major chapter topics, chapters are introduced with a special "Remember This" quotation that relates to chapter content. Chapters conclude with Opportunities for Critical Thinking questions to reinforce the concepts discussed and Skill Building exercises to develop the skills necessary to become an excellent customer service provider. Periodic Challenges provide unique experiences in special customer service areas.

Customer Service: A Practical: Approach goes beyond providing reasons why customer service is important by defining proven methods for creating an environment that achieves excellence in customer service.

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