Boost customer service without extra staff or technology
Writing for our sister site, accountingweb.co.uk, SME expert Edward Bodiam explains the solution he offered to a client looking to improve customer service without taking on extra employees or investing in new technology. 
Telecommunications service and support company
How do we improve customer service without recruiting more staff or buying technology?
This is one of the questions we get asked most. We have a number of ways of helping with this and it usually needs to be tailored to the customer in question. However, here is what we did to support this customer.
The customer has been operating for seven years, promoting themselves as a sales and marketing organization for the provision of all things telecoms.
Although the company had experienced good growth with increasing revenues and profits year after year, certain problematic customer service related issues existed. We were asked to come into the business to help provide support for the owner as a virtual board to get the company in a position to attain the owners' financial objectives within the timescale that had been set.
It became apparent in the first visit that the main focus of the business as a sales organization wasn't really adding any value to the sales effort or to the existing customers. More to the point, it wasn't adding any bottom line increase to the valuation of the business.
After speaking to the customer base we discovered that the company had lost several customers through what was felt to be apathy and a lack of concern for their problems. The customers were shopping around for deals because the customer service wasn't good enough to make them want to pay any premiums on products or services.
We decided to re-focus the company as a customer service based organization and pay real attention to the existing customers.
We reviewed the existing customer base and from that designed a matrix of the customers and the products and services they currently used. This matrix became the basis of a customer relationship management (CRM) bible for all customer contact throughout the business. Everyone had access to it and everyone had to look at it before any contact with a customer.
We linked in all sales initiatives from the sales teams so they were sent to the existing base as well as the new prospects lists. We kept a log of all contact to and from our clients through all media. We set target times for getting back to clients' queries whether they were for new products or just simple enquiries. All of the above was linked with information from the existing support database and reported on daily.
With this in place, we were able to provide business information reports on the number of sales contacts with customers, the number of issues and fault calls raised, and many more key performance indicators (KPIs).
These business information reports meant we were able to get an up-to-date view on what was happening within the business and meant the management team was making decisions based on facts and not on estimations. We could monitor progress and add value where it was really wanted by the customers. We were also getting financial statistics back about how much was being spent and whether there was an increase in spend by customer, by industry, and by calendar month.
Having all this information affected the business as a whole. We could target marketing campaigns at specific times of the year to specific industries to attract new business. Each customer was understood in greater detail than before as they were spoken to more often. This meant the company knew when they were going to have busy periods on the phones so services could be sold that helped relieve the pressure. The customers were getting much faster response times and also getting calls when they weren't expecting them to see if they needed anything.
The outcome was that the company started to get more business from each customer and more referrals not just from the one or two customers who had always provided business, but from across the base.
As well as helping with this process, we re-organized the management team and set up some formalities around meeting processes, so everyone knew what their job was, what they were expected to deliver and report on, and what their responsibilities were. We also helped the workforce to work closely together, to really become a team.
There has been a continued improvement in customer loyalty. This extra revenue is coming in at a time when new customer acquisition is getting harder and harder. The above was implemented three months ago and has already paved the way for a new CRM software solution to be implemented, which we have helped to source and select. This will give greater continuity of information and make everyone's jobs easier. It has been paid for out of the increase in profits.
Give it a go and good luck!