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Progressing with customer satisfaction and retention

Customer satisfaction forms the crux of any business, especially when it comes to the service industry. With ever-increasing players in the market, there is a need to not only vie for more customers but also to find ways to retain the existing ones. Ravi Manchandani, Managing Director, Afoozo Pvt Ltd, spoke on ‘Service Quality and Contract Retention’ at the Seminar held during the 9th edition of the Clean India Show 2012.

In today’s competitive market scenario, it is necessary to review the service programmes set in place and check if they conform to the basic fundamental aspects of the business from time to time. Ten years back, the service provider worked in a more relation-driven environment, and shared a personal relation with the client. This personalised working method has seen many small players grow into large organisations.

Local players, in the present scenario, are facing competition from the more professional MNCs that have high set of standards adapted for their service programmes, deliverables and customer service measurement. The clients too have evolved with the service provider. They have clear priorities in creating better infrastructure, facilities and environment for its employees in an effort to retain them.

The service programmes of the service provider have to align with the needs of the customer base consisting of client’s employees. This service programme forms the crux of business, as customer retention is affected by quality programmes. At present, a lot of capital is being spent in pursuing new businesses instead of retaining them. The measurement of success is based on the percentage of customer retention.

All service providers strive to deliver quality service and their mission statements prioritise customer satisfaction and retention. But these priorities do not always translate on the ground level. The staff that provides the services has to be supported by the right resources, tools and skills set through training. The thought process that is applied at the higher levels of the corporate ladder has to be implemented at the ground level, to build a cohesive programme that benefits the customer.

There is no second chance to make a first impression, so the service provider has to ensure that the client and the customers receive best quality services. The service industry in the West is very mature, and the relationship of the service provider with the client has moved from a customer care programme to a partnership programme. The goal of a service provider is to be recognised as a partner to the client, as opposed to a vendor or a labour contractor. It is necessary to evaluate the standing of the service provider with respect to the client, through reviews and performance evaluation.

It is believed that the client is only interested in the cost of the service and sources accordingly. But it is not necessarily true, as it is the responsibility of the service provider to take initiative to showcase the value it is adding to the client’s business. The only way to evolve from a vendor to a partner is to provide the best possible service and make the client aware of the value addition it makes to their business.

The partnerships have to be measured and the review meetings should analyse the partnership index. The clients in the green zone are an opportunity, which would provide with vertical growth without the need to spend on sales calls. The client is more likely to choose a tried and tested service provider for its future projects, offering an opportunity of growth to the service provider. These clients include the service providers in the success story ensuring that the latter is also successful. At the same time, the clients that fall in the red zone area are at risk. Proper evaluation has to be undertaken to ensure that whatever shortcomings that are occurring are effectively removed. If these clients are not properly attended to, the service provider may lose the business.

There is a need to examine the quality of the service provided and the customer perception to it. This can be done through feedbacks from the clients. Feedbacks can be done in various forms like the SLAs having a review mechanism or through review meetings and feedback forms. This will help the service provider to evaluate the quality of the programmes and develop them for further improvement in quality.

The retention process starts at the basic level during the sales meet with the customer. It is important to understand the retention process while closing an account. The service provider has to take into account its capabilities, line it with the client’s expectations and build a programme based on the findings.

Once the SLAs and the contracts are in place, the service provider has to see that its deliverables are also in place with its commitment. The data that is collected through feedback is valuable to both the service provider and also the client as it provides insight on the satisfaction levels of the customer. It is impossible to work with just the SLAs in place, as the reviews allow the service provider to tweak them, so that better and more efficient services can be provided. The client has to be taken into confidence on the efforts being made to meet expectations and the progress in the right direction.

It is necessary to have a periodic review in place that need not cover all the employees, but a small pool that will help gaining beneficial information. The periodicity of the review depends on the client. The review is very important for the client, as it allows him to know if the deliverables are being used efficiently, and if the service provided is in line with what it wants for its employees. Feedback or review allows in filling gaps that cannot be spelled out in contracts or KPIs. These gaps will help the service provider to determine if he is on the right path.

The next level is client feedback, where the expectations received will vary from that of the employees. A discussion can be held to determine the gaps in the service and the effective methods that can be used to cover them. Routine communication is necessary to make the client aware of the value added by the service provider. The clients are not specialists. The very fact that they outsource the job to specialists necessitates in making the client understand that the service provided is not a cost centre but a value addition to the client business. A formatted routine communication with the client is of utmost importance. The review will allow the client to acknowledge the value added by the service provider and help build a partnership. The client will support new methods initiated by the service provider when it believes that this will have a positive impact on its business.

The relationship cannot hinge on sales and costs, it has to move forward. If the client does not perceive the importance of the value added by the service provider then the service will be commoditised and sourced at the cheapest cost. It is important for the service provider to showcase the value addition, to retain client’s interest in the services and also the discussion will move from headcounts and costs towards adding value and being efficient. The review will reveal the minute flaws that normally would have been missed by the service provider.

The review cannot be one-sided and the service provider will also have to put forth his views and make sure that the client is attentive to his suggestions. The review process is very important with relation to retention and every service provider should incorporate it.

It would be favourable, if the customer programmes are in line with the basics. It is crucial to check if the customer is being treated with care and courtesy. The technical staff that is part of the contract is not the only important link, but how a customer or a client is approached is also of importance. If one is rude to the customer, then the quality work done will get negated. These basic aspects of business cannot be spelled out in contracts. These have to be applied within the programme and the staff has to be trained, so that Standard Operating Procedures are followed. A client has to be approached with a positive attitude that will showcase the confidence the service provider has in the quality of work. This attitude has to start from the CEO and go all the way to the ground staff.

The industry is evolving and making strides; it has to be matched by the clients and the service providers. One has to keep abreast with the changing dynamics of the market environment & competition and comprehend the expectations of the clients. There are many MNCs that have set up companies in the country today and they carry forward the same level of experience they have had abroad and expect the same level of professionalism and expertise in India too. Hence, there is a need to evolve in accordance to the market demand.

 

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