Service for all

Last week, Compaq Gulf & Levant unveiled a new customer relationship strategy that has been rolled out through the entire Middle East operation.

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By  Mark Sutton Published  February 16, 2002

Last week, Compaq Gulf & Levant unveiled a new customer relationship strategy that has been rolled out through the entire Middle East operation. At the centre of the operation is a call centre, although the company is keen to stress that the initiative does not mean just having someone on the end of a phone line to answer technical enquiries, but extends to the whole enterprise.

The company quoted some interesting figures too about customer relationships—90% of customers that receive bad service don’t complain, they just don’t come back. But out of those that do complain, and have a problem solved, 82% will come back again—get customer service right, even if you have initially made a mistake, and you gain a loyal customer.

Compaq’s insistence that customer service must permeate the whole organisation is nicely illustrated by an incident involving a colleague recently. An airline lost, and damaged, several cases belonging to some guests that were visiting him.

His initial contact with the airline to recover the cases seemed promising—the airline traced the luggage and returned it easily enough, and told him that the damaged cases could be sorted out at the airport when his guests departed. Unfortunately, on arrival at the airport, the local manager informed them that the compensation forms for the cases should have been filled in several days before departure, and he wasn’t able to help. Which is exactly the sort of thing that destroys all the hard work of the other people involved in customer care.

Compaq bemoaned the lack of consumer protection laws in the region—no money-back guarantees, no returns policies. Too often the deal is let down by a partner who doesn’t understand the CRM ethic; consequently Compaq was also putting investment into getting its channel up to speed on customer service.

I had wanted to mention my own experiences in returning an item to a local electrical retailer, but so far the situation hasn’t been resolved. They are not doing too badly so far, a swift explanation of the fault, an apology that the item would have to go back to the vendor for repair and another apology that they had no replacement in stock, and a contact number to check progress. So now the problem is in the hands of the vendor, I shall wait and see whether its customer service matches that of the retail partner.

It’s this co-ordination of customer service, both internal and external, that is make or break. The vendor can put all the effort in they like, but the channel partner needs to be fully aware of policies as well. Likewise, the channel needs timely RMA from its partners, and to be kept up to date with procedures, product recalls and any other initiatives.

Just one single person can ruin the entire CRM initiative, which in turn can damage a company’s reputation. Even staff that don’t have contact with the customer have to be aware of the issues. CRM requires the whole channel to work properly.

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