Customer service is one of the most important duties of any marketer. A marketer has the responsibility to ensure that customers get the best service from the firm. Customer service comes in various fronts. The ultimate goal of every marketer is to have a satisfied customer. Customer satisfaction comes in various fronts. A marketer will commit him or herself to providing maximum satisfaction to the customer based on their varied needs.
Firms have been grounded because of poor service to the customers. The world has become very competitive. The market has been opened up and the world today has an extensively diversified customer base. As the population of the world increases, new firms are introduced from every corner of the world. This brings a situation where one market is characterized by firms that offer similar products. This would mean that a customer will be at liberty to choose the firm that he or she thinks would best provide satisfaction to his or her needs.
Firms that come to understand customer needs have managed to become prosperous in the market. They have managed to get the attention of customers and this has seen them prosper. Apple is one such company. This firm has been able to understand needs of the customers. Not only has it managed to provide customers with their needs through customer service, but also through their products. This firm has constantly been producing new products in the market at regular intervals. The marketing team of this firm has also been so efficient. They have been able to capture the needs of the market by reaching out to them through the best means possible, including the social and mass media. This has been the basis of the success of this firm.
For a long time, marketing was considered as part of production department. The production department never existed then. Immediately after the Second World War, the world market lacked competition. Many of the multinational firms dominated the market with their products. Firms like Coca Cola dominated the world market with their cola products. The main concern then was to produce in mass. The firms were assured of the market. The market would have no choice but to accept whatever is availed to them. Marketing then, took the approach of production strategy. Firms’ main concerns were how to produce in mass. Finding the market would not be a problem as long as the logistics could be well managed.
The world started changing gradually as we approached the mid 1950s. New firms were mushrooming from various parts of the world. A new threat for the western firms was emerging in the Far East. China and Japan were coming up strongly with firms that had the capacity to match the European and American firms. This was an upset for these firms. It was something that was completely new to them (Harper, 2010). The down of the twentieth century saw everything turned against firms that had considered themselves monopolies. The new market entrants came with new strategies that were beyond the expectation of the existing firms.
This was made worse by the emerging technology. The emerging technology made the market very dynamic. This was a double blow to the existing large firm. The first disadvantage that this factor brought was that experience was no longer a competitive advantage. The emerging technologies were bringing completely new approached of conducting trade, and the experience a firm had would be rendered meaningless. If anything, experience was turned from being a competitive advantage, to being a challenge. It was a challenge because the current society wanted flexibility.
Experience made some of the employees very inflexible. The second blow was that the size of the firm was a factor that could make a firm prospers or not. While large firms could easily allow for research because of its financial strength, this big size was also a shortcoming. A large firm could not manage to be flexible enough to withstand the changes that were taking place in the environment.
This created a competition that some of the existing firms had not predicted. The twenty-first century is characterized by high level of competition in the market. It is only the best that can succeed. As the suppliers demand more for the same products they have been delivering, customers are willing to pay less for the same products they have been buying. At the middle of this pressure are the firms that initially thought that they had a full control of the market.
This has seen firms come up with various strategies that would help them remain competitive in the market. Marketing has become the most important department in every firm. Success of a firm will always depend on the activities of the marketing unit. Marketing as a strategic activity in a firm has also changed from what it was in the past. Marketing has taken the approach of social marketing strategy. In this strategy, customer is always right, irrespective of how irrational some of his or her actions may be.
The focus of the marketer is to offer maximum satisfaction to the customer by offering superior value always. Failing to satisfy customers may edge a firm out of the market. Superior customer service is what made Apple become the most productive firm in the world in the year 2010. Lack of proper care for the customers is what has made Dell lose its market share to some of its competitor like HP.
This study focuses on the importance of customer service, and the consequences of poor customer service. The case study below will help shed more light to the topic
The Giant Kodak Struggles to Stay Afloat in the Market
Kodak is an American Film maker that has been in the film industry for approximately one year. This firm marker was very prosperous in the era of the first and the second world wars. Immediately after the Second World War, this firm becomes very prosperous. There was no competition locally and internationally. The product was very marketable in the US, especially for the tourists who were travelling to various countries around the world. The management of this firm was keen to capture other world markets. Kodak was controlling over 90 percent of the American film industry. It was planning to expand to other regions, and Europe formed the second most attractive market after the US. The firm believed that it had the capacity to dominate the global market without any form of threat.
According to Graves and Parry (2008), the marketing department of this firm was very weak. The main focus of this department was just to ensure that Kodak had new markets. They focused so much on acquiring the new markets than caring of the existing one. Although the products of this firm were of good value, based on the standards then, customers did not feel cared for by the firm. They could not talk to the firm through its customer care unit, because it did not exist in the first case. The only way customers could communicate to this firm would be through its distributers. Most of the distributers rarely passed this communication to the firm. The few who passed the communication to the customers did not were never given the motivation to have intensive communication with the customers.
When a Japanese firm, Fujifilm came to the market with a similar product, Kodak dismissed it. The management of Kodak was convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that the American market would not go for the products offered by this foreign firms.
This was a dangerous assumption. This firm came to the market with what the market needed most, an ear to listen. This firm had a customer care unit where it would receive communications from the customers. The firm would then devise means through which these comments could be implemented. This Japanese firm was much smaller than Kodak (Harper, 2010). However, it was gaining popularity in the local markets at an alarming speed. The marketing unit of Fujifilm made customers feels that they are honored. They treated customers with decorum, always assuring them o the maximum benefit they will get from the product.
When Kodak realized that its market was slowly slipping away, it tried frantically to formulate policies that could change the trend, but it was too late. Customers had communicated and Fujifilm had listened. Through this, Fujifilm had given the market what it needed, digital films. Because Kodak never listened, it stuck to the old photographic film that was too old-fashioned for the market. Currently, Fujifilm is the market leader in this industry. Kodak on the other hand, had to be bailed by Citibank out to avoid filing for bankruptcy in 2011.
According to Harper (2010), customer service is one of the most important services of the marketing unit. Customers form the strongest pillar of a firm. The above scholar stated that prosperity of a firm today depends on the ability of a firm to develop a strong base of loyal customers. One of the best ways of having a base of loyal customers is through offering quality service to customers. With the emerging technologies, almost every firm will have the capacity to offer value to customers.
A firm would therefore need to develop new ways through which it would appear unique from others in a positive way. Packaging offers this opportunity to appear unique. However, every firm can develop unique packaging, eliminating packaging as a means through which a firm can be competitive. This leaves only one alternative, customer service.
Customer service is a very broad area. According to Graves and Parry (2008), customer service starts well before a customer makes a purchase of the products. Customer service involves coming out with the best strategy that would ensure that the customer is satisfied at every stage of purchase of the product of the firm. Before making the purchase, a customer should be treated well, to ensure that he develops strong attachment with the firm.
When making the purchase, a customer should be made to feel valued by the firm after the purchase; a customer should be made to feel that there is still some form of attachment with the firm. According to Harper (2010), this is the only way through which a firm can ensure that such a customer would not consider making a purchase at a different firm. This is what has seen some firms outshine others in the market. Human being, according to Harper (2010), is the most complex creature. Unlike specimen used by pure scientist that can be manipulated, it is not possible to manipulate actions of human being easily.
However, the role of a marketer is to manipulate consumer behavior in such a way that would make them make repeat purchase to the firm repeatedly. As stated above, this is not easy. This is a complex process that involves understanding of the mind of the customer. It involves getting into the mind of the customer, understanding his or her needs, and designing products that have the capacity to fulfill their needs in the best way possible. This is part of the activities involved in customer service.
According to Graves and Parry (2008), customer service is always the first step towards having a healthy firm in terms of customers. When customers are involved in the activities of the firm, the benefit would be enormous. This scholar notes that this will not only make them feel honored, but also make them own the product or the brand. Such a customer will develop a sense of belonging towards the product.
Such a customer will not need a comprehensive expense on advertisement. They will always be looking for the brand or the product in the market. This is the strategy that Apple Inc has used to capture the American market, and other world market. According to Harper (2010), this firm has allowed its customers to participate in its innovation process. Customers are allowed to think of a non-existing product related to the current products offered by this firm. Such ideas are developed, and from it are some of the best products offered by this firm. This firm will not have to heavily spend on such products. This is because the market owns them.
The market has the feeling that the product is part of them because they contributed to its invention. According to Griffin and Moorehead (2012) every firm should have a clear mechanism through which it can handle its customers. It is only through these that firms such as Kodak a make a comeback and give Fujifilm a considerable amount of pressure in the market.
An observation into the general business environment would reveal a new trend in the market. Firms are becoming very aggressive and overprotective of their market share. Firms currently insist on having a close relationship with their customers, irrespective of the size of their market. The United States still remains the most attractive market for various firms in the world. The firms have developed clear mechanisms through which they can take a closer attention to their customers. Customer service is one of the recently developed units of marketing that has become very relevant to various firms.
Customer service has been taken so seriously by various competitive firms in this country. Some years back, large organizations provided phone numbers through which customers could reach them. However, the numbers were always engaged. It was virtually possible to make a successful call to these industries.
This has completely changed. Various firms have provided numbers through which their customers can easily reach them. Other firms have developed large call centers for the purpose of reaching out to the market. The call centers are large and operate twenty-four hours in a day. Any time one makes a call to the company; there would always be somebody to respond. To take care of the costs, some of the firms have outsourced for this service in other parts of the world where the cost of labor is large.
One of the firms that have their call centers outside the United States in Apple (Harper, 2010). An American customer will make a call to this firm, and the call will be received from China. All the customer’s needs will be met by the customer care unit. Other ways through which firms can be reached is through the social media. Some of these firms, like Coca Cola Company, are very active in the social media. Customers can communicate their concerns to the firm through the social media.
Customer service is also witnessed when an individual makes a visit at the stores of various firms within the US. The reception will be worm, and the attendants will always be ready to help in case the help is needed. When making the purchase, the customer care team will always be near to help in carrying some of the purchase if they are too bulky or heavy to be handled by the customer alone. The customer care will always be ready to offer any help to the customer, during the process of the purchase, including a detailed explanation of how the purchased product can be used. This is demonstrated at the Amazon stores, Apple shops, General Motors Garage and many other such related stores. Firms are well aware that poor customer service would automatically translate to poor sales.
The world today is becoming increasingly competitive. Various firms are coming up with products that are similar to that o their competitors. This is creating a scenario where firms are subjected to very stiff competition in the market. Firms are forced to come up with strategies that would give them competitive advantage over their competitors. Customer service has turned out to be one of the best ways through which a firm can develop a competitive advantage. This can only be possible if an individual can have a close relationship with the market. It would require the firm to develop mechanisms through which it can communicate with the customers in a convenient way.
Customer service does not entail good communication alone. It also involves other services to the customer when at the facility or away. Customers need guidance when making their purchase. The marketing team must ensure that they are satisfied in a way that would make them have the least possible post-purchase dissonance. Poor service will always bring down even a market leader. Kodak was the world’s largest firm in the film industry some few years ago. However, its poor service to the customers has made it one of the least profitable firms in the world today.
Graves, A., & Parry, G. (2008). Built To Order: The Road to the 5-Day Car. London: Springer.
Griffin, W., & Moorehead, G. (2012). Organizational behavior: Managing people and organizations. Mason: Cengage Learning.
Harper, M. (2010). Inclusive value chains: A pathway out of poverty. New Jersey: World Scientific.