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Customer Service: Are We Where Our Customers Want Us to Be?

Posted: January 30, 2012

The choices most consumers face for their food and fiber purchasing are many. Why do they shop with us? I expect they are comfortable with our brand of customer service delivery. However, we should consider how we might best enhance the buying experience for our current and future customers.
Our products are not necessarily what customers are buying.

Our products are not necessarily what customers are buying.

Customer service has as many definitions. For me as a shopper I may not be able to give my merchants an exact idea of what customer service means to me. However, I find myself regularly thinking about and talking about my personal customer service experiences as well as those I see around me. If I was pressed for a definition it would something around “did a buying experience allow the customer to come back again to purchase?”

If we visit academia we find there are three ways to think about this elusive concept.

Customer service as a "thing"

Here we treat customer service as a particular task that we must accomplish to satisfy customer needs. Order processing, billing and invoicing, product returns, and claims handling are all typical examples of this level of customer service.

Customer service as a "measure"

If we operate here we use customer service to mean “how is the business doing?” This gets us thinking about our ability to get people in the door, number of complaints received and other quantitative measures. This level enhances the first one, but still does not tell us if we are achieving actual customer satisfaction.

Customer service as "life philosophy"

This level envisions customer service as a commitment to providing customer delight. We do not limit ourselves to narrowly views of some specific tasks or set of numbers. We see customer service as a dedication to customers that lives throughout all the activities of our farm business.

As we discuss getting to better service for our buyers let’s take a moment or two and develop our farm businesses philosophy of customer service - “What customer experience is your company trying to deliver?” As we continue through the Interactive Age, every enterprise will have to learn how to treat different customers differently. Let’s always remember that delightful Customer Service is a competitive advantage.

Recent research into the implications of this non-defined thing I am calling customer service is summarized below:

“Why Customers/Clients Stop Doing Business with us?”
1% Die
3% Move away
5% Other reasons
9% Competition
14% Don't like the product or service
68% Indifferent attitude of sales people

With the above 68% of our customer losses attributed to our sales staff and customer interaction looks to me as though there is room for improving our customers’ shopping experience. According to Dr. Richard George, customers want to give loyalty, but nobody is earning it.

The choices most consumers face for their food and fiber purchasing are many. Why do they shop with us? I expect they are comfortable with our brand of customer service delivery. However, we have some time yet before spring work to consider how we might best enhance the buying experience for our current and future customers. Without customers – we have no business.