Sunday, August 12, 2007

5 Ps of Good Service

IN the school of marketing, we have always been indoctrinated to apply the 4 Ps which are fundamentally important, namely Product, Place, Price and Promotion and missing one of the Ps could well spell trouble of sorts for any business. In any best scenario one could have hoped for; our product has to appeal to the larger audience in the right market source for its quality, brand and price affordability emerging from a series of successful promotion blitz assuming the 4 Ps in the marketing mix are taken into context.

By the same measure, for a successful venture in any industry to remain sustainable for a long while, haven’t we also overlooked something very important here? Yes, it is about service to our customers and it has to be one heck of a good customer service to begin with. Without further ado, no one industry can afford to do without is offering a good and personalized service for their customers to remember a long time to come and it is probably one important marketing mix of sorts that comes between a successful organisation that never stops winning accolades and praises, the world over and at the opposing end, one that fails to do anything to improve their badly battered service despite recognising their own shortcoming – no prize for guessing which company will emerge stronger each day and regrettably, which one will be sent packing very soon!

Just like the 4 fundamental Ps that form the marketing mix and taking it in depth, some marketing gurus have identified the 5 Ps that attribute to good customer service and they are as follows:

More often than not, it has always been proven right if one has a strong passion to complete a task, however arduous it may set out to be, for he or she is more than not to overcome all odds and achieve some success in the end. With passion, perseverance comes automatically. Passion comes from within, one cannot act or fake to be passionate to people if one simply lacks it. More importantly, passion is not a subject that can be taught in school for it can only be nurtured in a person’s character that comes truly from the heart.

Borrowing a phrase from Confucius: “If you love your job, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” Perhaps it is more fitting to say it is not about getting the best paid job one has always yearned for but dreading it every day when one’s passion is gone. You will continue to suffer in the job, your colleagues who work with you will too but your business will suffer most when you find all your customers are patronising your competitors.

Some people are friendly by nature; they go out of their way to make other people happy. They may not necessarily be trained to be friendly, they simply love making other people happy and that passion is second nature to them. It is therefore not wrong to say the least that successful people are those who are always passionate with everything they have set upon to achieve and success will soon come a knocking.

Have pride in the product you are promoting and be confident too, always be ready with answers when a difficult customer throws you some tricky or out-of-the ordinary questions in bid to downplay your product.

How does a company expect their staff to have pride in their job if there is a clear lack of communication between superior and subordinate from onset? A manager in a hotel instructs her sales personnel, “Call Mr Siva to settle his payment as soon as possible!” without giving any specific details, thereby assuming that staff to read her vague instructions and act upon it right away. Any untoward outcome as a result of miscommunication, the staff will be blamed again and his or her pride is sure to hurt. By the same token, how can pride be instilled if there is no training or proper guidance given to the staff especially the newly employed ones? Pride and training must band if we want to see fruition in business. Staff must at least be trained adequately before he or she can have pride in his or her job, in the product they are going to convince their customers to buy. Staff lacking in product knowledge due to little or no training are likely to draw a blank with their customers and that will equate to loss of business opportunity.

While pride is one fundamental requirement, mannerism and tone of one’s voice can do or break a business transaction. Imagine if a hotel sales personnel were to say this to his customer: “Mr Tan, our hotel is the best one in the whole of Batam Island and if you are hankering for ‘cheap charlie’ price, we suggest you try Harrier Hotel which offers free pizza on top of their already rock-bottom price.” Surely, that is not pride with such an uncalled for remark which is suicidal to say the least that could lead to a quicker demise of that particular hotel. Suffice to say, a different phrase like this could have made a world of difference: “Mr Tan, as our esteemed customer, we have endeavoured to accord a very good rate to you already and for that, you are given good value for your money too but most importantly, you must enjoy your stay with us.” Evidently, the hotel is not the cheapest in town and the management is not prepared to pip against their competitor for the lowest price offered to customers. They take pride in maintaining their price but enhancing their product to their customers without the need to engage in any unnecessary price war with their competitors and customers are won over with their pride still intact.

Customers are more than likely to remember an unforgettable experience with a particular store that goes all their way to check with other stores or offer alternatives if they do not carry that particular merchandise or merchandises in their own store. By going all the way out to help with an enquiry instead of saying a flat no from onset, a satisfied customer is likely to remember and patronise the same store again even though the first sale transaction may not have been realized for varied reason. It is a display of proactiveness with a personalised touch by the staff that earns customer’s satisfaction.

Service staff in a coffee house or restaurant must be trained to be sharp or vigilant, constantly watching out for their customers and if any, anticipating their needs so that they can be quick to respond. It has been noted in some restaurants service staff simply gathered at one corner chatting away despite not having many customers, oblivious to their customers’ calls for their immediate attention.

Service providers must always be positive with themselves; they have made a choice to be happy and also to make others, their customers happy with their positive behaviours in their services. Preaching this popular phrase, “Customer Is King” and we should endeavour to let our customers feel special for most of them like to be pampered in some way. If we care to take the little extra effort to remember their names, their preferences or even their birthdays, we will not get to see the last of them for they will become our repeat customers.

It is said that positive people have higher self-esteem and by their display of positive behaviour, others around them will also be motivated to perform better. Saying No is probably not in the dictionary of positive people but the domino effect can also work the reverse on people who are negative in everything and inevitably, they too influence others around for a wrong reason though.

For a staff to be proficient in his or her job, he or she must be equipped with sufficient product knowledge and skills. This requires adequate training by senior staff or qualified trainers engaged by the company. An example, a customer in a restaurant sees an interesting item in the menu and wishes to know more from the waiter. He gives you a blank look as if he is in the lost world and answers: “Err..., I don’t know, Sir. The chef did not tell us and our job is just to take order for customers only.” However much politeness the waiter may have possessed, this takes second stage now if he simply lacks the product knowledge to give a satisfactory answer to his customer.

Had the waiter taken the initiative to study the menu diligently, his manager conducted some food tasting and proper briefing with valued help from the chef, such an embarrassing encounter with customer is not likely to happen.

In another awkward situation, a guest in the hotel lobby lounge asked for his favourite cocktail drink, ‘screw driver’ and the waiter nonchalantly replies: “Sir, we don’t have a screwdriver here but if you really want one, I will have to get it from our maintenance department for you.”

This embarrassing moment had happened in real situation, the result of lack of proficiency in product knowledge while many things are simply taken for granted.

Note: The writer is not the original creator of the 5 Ps. The entire script is the original work of the writer based on his own working experiences and it is not an attempt to teach people, rather to share his insights with others.

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