Many end users view customer service representatives (CSRs) as their impartial advocates — the people who represent their best interests and understand their nuances better than anyone. A great CSR is an account sleuth, uncovering the client’s needs and headaches, and turning that information into solutions.
That truth is coupled with this one: In our industry, excellent customer service is still a huge differentiator in the eyes of clients and prospects. Talk all the technology you want, or devise as many print communication tactics as you can, but this is still a service industry, through and through. None of the geeky stuff matters if you don’t have empathetic people who listen and respond.
One manufacturer put it to me this way: “Every time the phone rings or an email is received, the opportunity to blow somebody’s socks off is there.”
But how? In what specific ways can distributors and manufacturers ensure they’re employing and training effective CSRs? How do you know if your service levels meet client expectations?
After all, when industry firms tout their “great service,” the phrase often feels vague. Folks might use a cliché like “saved the day” or “above and beyond.” Maybe service is described as a “thread woven into everything we do.” That might be the case, but service shouldn’t be an idle notion. (Who doesn’t think they treat customers well?) For some companies, service is a specific asset that requires communication, dedication and even measurement.
That’s why I loved talking with so many dedicated, engaged CSRs at the P2P Technology + Innovation Summit in New Orleans. For the first time as part of the annual event, they took part in a program devised specifically to help educate and train them. They moved throughout the event together, sharing ideas, asking questions, meeting vendors and clinking glasses.
It’s important to note that for so many projects, CSRs are the chief decision-makers for sourcing. It was cool, then, to watch CSRs kick-start conversations in the P2P exhibit hall, talking to vendors they previously knew only from phone calls. They’ll return to work with new connections and resources, access to cutting-edge solutions, and knowledge that will benefit their companies.
Check out page 13 of the October issue of PS Magazine to see a group photo of some of the CSRs who attended P2P. Also check out the cover story on labels beginning on page 18.
The concept of customer service might be subjective, but the value of smart, empowered CSRs in our industry is absolute.