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Within customer service there are many elements which must be organized to make effective customer service happen properly - pricing strategy is important of course - but the crucial constant factor is the human element - how people are treated and communicated with - because simply, customers are people, and people tend to behave like people and respond to people.
In line with company policy, an employee needs to treat the customer as they have been trained to do so, using their product knowledge and expertise to deliver the best suited service to the customer’s individual needs. Company guidelines exist for a reason – they help employees to handle specific situations, so it is important that this is covered in induction, training and via updates in corporate communications.
Customers and consumers now have high expectations to be met, and service and product quality need to be of a standard which does not lead to complaints and customer loss.
On completing this module, the learner will:
Understand the meaning of external customers
Know the types of products and services relevant to external customers
Understand how to deliver customer service that meets or exceeds external customer expectations
Understand the purpose of quality standards and timescales for customer service to external customers and be able to deliver them
Understand how to deal with customer service problems for external customers and monitor and evaluate services to external customers
Be able to build positive working relationships with external customers
Be able to deal with customer service problems and complaints for external customers

This section will take you around 6 hours to complete, as you’ll need to complete a short case study, look at forms, explore the key tips and complete several reflections exercises. The quiz at the end will test how you have consolidated this knowledge. Firstly, we’ll take a look at the role of external customers.

The Difference in the terms ‘Consumer’ and ‘Customer’
The difference between a consumer and a customer can be a very thin line.
By definition, an external customer is someone who buys services or goods from someone else while a consumer is someone that consumes a certain product or commodity. In the concept of Economics, a consumer can either be a single person or an entire organisation which uses a certain type of service.
As an example, a restaurant buys a coffee maker, for the benefit of its patrons or guests. In this connection, the restaurant is clearly pictured as a customer and not the actual consumer.
However, in a similar scenario wherein you directly go to the coffee maker manufacturer and buy their product so that you can bring it home for your family’s use at home, then you are the real consumer.

A customer can be a consumer, but a consumer does not necessarily need to be a customer. Example: a child could be a consumer of breakfast cereal, while the child's mother would be the customer.

The external customer is the ultimate consumer of the company's goods or services, but the internal customer facilitates the delivery to the external customer. The internal customer is a fellow colleague within the company, such as a worker in a different department. An internal customer can be part of an external organisation that is intimately linked in with the company by providing services such as delivery of the goods to the external customer.
Ultimately, an external customer has the option of taking his needs to another company if he is unsatisfied with the present one, but an internal customer is likely to have a binding contract to the company.

It's also helpful to think of a customer service network as consisting of a series of inputs and outputs, with yourself at the centre. Various things get passed to you (such as information, work tasks and queries) and you in turn pass your work or communications to other internal customers in the chain, or straight to the external customer.

Reflections Exercise

From your perspective, think through recent examples of customer service you have received in the following types of transactions. Think about the reason for the transaction. Was it a query, complaint, or purchase?

Which of the behaviours, either positive or negative, from the list above did you experience?

Face-to-face Experience Transaction

What was the situation?

What behaviours were displayed towards you?

Did the behaviours meet your own expectations of customer excellence?

If not, why not?

What could have been done differently?

Phone Transaction

What was the situation?

What behaviours were displayed towards you?

Did the behaviours meet your own expectations of customer excellence?

If not, why not?

What could have been done differently?


Know the types of products and services relevant to external customers

Customer service is delivered through many means including: via call centres, web, mobile phones, retail, mail order, interactive TV, personal data, stores, interactive TV, mobile apps, tablets
Every single one of these touchpoints need to ensure customer needs can be met.
Products can be physical or virtual. For example, buying an insurance policy online will result in the purchased policy being emailed to you. You might be more interested in how the policy will operate, if the cover provides what you need, and the reputation of the company for handling claims, for example. It is a more intuitive, logical approach to purchasing.
Buying a car is a physical process, even though you will probably have researched on-line first. It is a visual and emotional experience. You want the right colour, size, look and functionality of the car for the right price. It might take time to purchase too.
Buyers and sellers will physically meet less and less through greater use of call centres, internet and interactive TV, and customers will be seeking more just in time experiences. These customers will download music, books, apps and games. They are seeking experiences. Issues are dealt with via forums, call centres and FAQS on websites.

Understand the purpose of quality standards and timescales for customer service to external customers and be able to deliver them

As demand for high customer service standards increases, it is worthwhile for an organisation to develop their own standards.

Customer Service Quality Standards Example
We will greet our customers in a courteous and professional manner.
We will listen effectively to our customers’ requests and promptly take the necessary actions to assist them. We will keep our customers informed of unexpected delays in service.
We will inform our customers of normal process time, when they can expect completion and any delays that may arise in the process.
We will touch base with our customers to update them as to where we are in the process.
We will respond to website questions/requests within 24 hours during normal business hours.
We will finish our encounters with our customers in a courteous and professional way.
Now we’ll look at how one UK organisation is looking to improve its quality of products and services through the involvement of customers.

Case Study – The John Lewis Partnership
Read through the following paragraphs and then click on the links to read more information. Make notes so that you can answer the questions which will follow. The case study should take around an hour to read and answer the questions.

Our Customers
“The 21st century has seen an unprecedented shift in consumer behaviour – driven by technology and rising disposable incomes. While outstanding value, choice and service continue to be at the heart of our customer offer, we know that in a competitive marketplace, loyalty will depend on a number of increasingly complex factors.
In practice this means that our technical teams maintain rigorous product safety processes and food standards, while Waitrose’s dedicated nutrition team works with suppliers to improve the nutritional value of the food we sell and to encourage and enable customers to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

An ageing population, and lifestyle factors such as rising obesity, will place greater strain on our social and health care systems over the coming decade. At Waitrose, we actively develop food and drink products that help consumers meet diet and health requirements as part of an overall balanced intake. We also provide customers with the information they need to make improvements to their diet.”

In 2015, John Lewis focused on developing a robust health product strategy to help meet their customers' diet and health requirements within the context of an overall balanced intake. At the same time they aimed to ensure that they communicated the benefits more clearly to customers through publications, on- line and on products.

http://www.johnlewispartnership.co.uk/csr/our-customers/healthy-lifestyles.html

http://www.johnlewispartnership.co.uk/csr/our-customers/safe-products.html
Questions
Q1: What nutritional aims does John Lewis have for own brands in 2016?
A: Sugar reduction in own brand cereal as well reformulation on yoghurts and bakery.

Q2: What will tested as an online version in 2017?
A: Living Well Slimming Club as a flexible version

Q3: What practical health advice was offered online and in-store?
A:
Dietary advice for customers with particular needs e.g. coeliac disease or diabetes, due to confusion about which products are suitable to eat.
Customers with specific health met with healthcare professionals for interactive advice sessions. Guided shopping to support special diets led to an accompanying resource pack for coeliac disease, diabetes and heart health. These include easy-to-use shopping lists for these conditions.
During HEART UK National Cholesterol month in October, a short video in collaboration with Alpro and HEART UKs offered practical help and advice about lowering cholesterol and maintaining a healthy heart.
Q4: List two roles, of the Product Safety Working Group.
A:
To review product safety procedures to ensure they remain fit for purpose
To identify areas for improvement.

Q5: Which two organisations did John Lewis work with to improve safety of products?

The (BRC) – the British Retail Consortium to introduce additional labelling and testing requirements for fancy dress items.
The RoSPA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) to develop a customer safety guide for Halloween.