Customer service has been the corporate mantra of the late '90s, which leads one to ask: what's taken so long?
Surely the cornerstone of any successful business is customer service. Unhappy customers don't come back. Nor do they recommend you to their friends and peers.
Of course, I've yet to meet a business that wouldn't claim that it's "customer focused". I even think that most are sincere when they say it.
That's not the reality of the situation, though. We all know of some companies that are a pleasure to deal with, while there are others that we simply won't touch because their customer service is so shoddy.
It's always difficult to know exactly how well you're doing in the customer service stakes. It's even more difficult because most companies do nothing to measure it. A business wouldn't dream of not keeping a close check on inventory levels and the like, but most take the attitude that ignorance is bliss when it comes to customer service.
With many customers now adopting technology like call centres and Internet technologies, one would think the situation should improve somewhat. There are call centre and Web tools out there that let you track key indicators of customer service. Yet if you have a look at recent call centre studies, for example, the lack of takeup of these tools is apparent.
There are opportunities here for resellers. Not only in delivering technologies like call centres which help your customers improve their service, but also in delivering solutions that help a company track and understand the level of customer satisfaction they're achieving.
We talk a lot about value add in this business, but that's the type of value add that really turns on senior management. And remember who signs the cheques.
Making a difference
If you're looking for an example of how technology can make a difference to a company, take a look at the difference Tech Pacific's Web site made to its scores in this year's Inform research. I've heard rival distributors laughing at how they now have easy access to Tech Pac's price lists and other such information. But judging by these results, it's Tech Pac that's going to have the last laugh because it's delivering a service its customers are demanding.
The Inform research, which is made available to ARN and which we bring to you every week in our Research page, is invaluable to everyone who services the channel, because it does exactly what I've been talking about. It tells us how well we're servicing our customers - resellers.
ARN certainly sees itself as a customer-focused organisation. We write for resellers, we write about resellers and every day we talk to resellers so that we understand the issues that are facing them. And thankfully, this year's Inform research indicates we're doing a good job, because we were clear winners again as the most read publication in the channel.
So from all the team at ARN, thanks for the vote of confidence.
Your thoughts and feedback are critical to ARN.
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