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Despite troubled times, customer service is key

The global recession has made it even more important to retain customers. To increase sales and maintain the interest of the customer in your brand, it is essential to have customer service skills intact ensuring that even if the product/service is not at its cheapest, the high level of service will ensure the customer continues to return to the service provider.

Many businesses also seem to be driven by cost reduction programmes, and this is having a major negative effect on employees which then affects the level of customer service provided. So by trying to reduce the costs in house, it is inadvertently further reducing sales, as customers are not encouraged to purchase the service or products because of the high costs and lack of customer service.

Engaging, training and developing staff is often put on hold and overlooked as many business owners tend to focus on how to increase sales, forgetting that efficient customer service is essential for increasing sales. They are at the centre of customer retention and, if neglected, can have a negative impact on sales. Without continued investment in customer driven programmes employee skills will fade and become inconsistent.

Office phones that are not answered due to a lack of staff and retailers with insufficient numbers of staff to talk to and assist shoppers, all erode customer satisfaction and completely eradicate customer retention. This can also be caused by off-hand staff, frustrated by shift changes and benefit cuts which then tend to take out their frustrations on the customers.

The internet has opened up huge choice for both businesses and customers, making it even harder to retain customers. But as customers do not have high expectations of customer service when shopping online since there is limited or in some cases no physical interaction, unless they call the hotlines. The huge deterrence there will be when, again, there is not enough staff to answer the phones to assist customers. However, businesses that have invested in optimum customer service and get it right, have survived and are flourishing.

Given all of this, the highest levels of customer service given to customers will always reflect positively in sales, even if the cost of service has been affected by the recession.

Stephen Hollings is commercial director of The Shield Group.

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