AS THE market for various goods and services becomes increasingly commoditised, over-crowded and price sensitive, customer service has become critically important as a potential source of strategic differentiation and profits.

The challenge for most companies, however, is that they have an incomplete understanding of what constitutes good customer service. Consequently, their interactions with customers often leave a lot to be desired.

Great customer service takes a broader and more empathetic response where sustained effort by every employee to think about what he does ultimately impacts the customer’s experience.

Here are some common myths about customer service that hinders a company’s effort to improve:

1. Believing that the customer always comes first

Instead, managers should focus on putting their contact employees (those who deal directly with customers) first, so they have the resources to care for customers.

Frontline staff need resources to resolve customer requests as effectively as possible. The role of the contact employees becomes much more critical since they are responsible for projecting the image of the service firm.

Service delivery is typically characterised by interactions between customers and service staff. The positive, courteous and helpful behaviour that contact employees display will positively impact the service quality the customers receive.

2. Thinking about customer service as strictly a cost centre

Companies should look at customer service as a potential wellspring of innovative thinking and profits. Contact employees with highly customer-oriented behaviours increase the satisfaction of their customers and lead to the development of long-term relationships between the organisation and its customers.

Developing the best, most well-equipped frontline workforce is critical to customer service success because these contact employees can have the biggest impact. They are a great source for innovative customer service.

Companies should view customer service as a profit-generating activity and an important contributor to shareholder value, rather than just a cost centre.

3. Relegating customer service to organisational silos

The responsibility for customer service should lie on the company as a whole, involving not only the contact employees, but also managers and all executives.

Companies wanting to improve customer service should require all staff to work together to collectively stand in their customers’ shoes in order to better understand and address their customers’ needs.

Organisations whose back-office infrastructures are not aligned to fulfil their service promise create a credibility and delivery gap.

While the visions of great customer service will evolve over time, it is crucial to focus more on making the existing visions operational through infrastructure improvements and service processes.

The more employees perceive and receive support from their organisation, the more committed they will be to it. They will be willing to put in more effort to serve customers, even if it is beyond their job requirements.

Such customer centricity to see the world from the customer’s perspective and to act accordingly to deliver a consistent, high-quality customer experience requires major commitment from the entire organisation.

The benefits in terms of increased customer loyalty and business and enhanced employee satisfaction are well worth the costs of getting there.