I have written extensively about key account management strategy. As anyone can appreciate, it is a highly complex and time-consuming initiative for an enterprise of any size, so when a reader asked me how to get started, this was my short response highlighting five simple steps that one can take:
Organize a meeting with people in your company that often meet with the customers the most, for example, sales, marketing, and support.
Develop a summary of what they think their key customers need the most.
Now take this information to the key accounts and refine the list (add or delete based on what they want).
Develop an organization chart that will include a few people that will interact regularly and then have a supervisor to manage these individuals.
Go back to the key accounts 6 months later to see if it is helping them. If not, make improvements.
As part of meaningless cost cutting by businesses, one of the areas where we have seen the most cuts is customer service. Over the years it has become nearly impossible to speak to a human being that works at the company that you are calling and is genuinely interested in resolving your problem. On the contrary we have seen companies outsourcing their customer service function and giving their business to firms that know practically nothing about their business. The goal is not to resolve issues but to get the caller off the phone so that they can take yet another call and charge their clients by the call.
Many companies now provide only online support, which is pathetic at best. Several companies even shipped their tech support overseas to people who wouldn’t know if someone needs a ticket to Chicago, the caller is not always thinking about getting on a plane.
Customer service success story
Now comes an interesting story in The Times about Netflix that has completely replaced its online support with phone support, with staff in the United States. With a staff of 375 people, the company is handling calls from over 8 million customers and almost all calls are answered within a minute.
I think there is a lesson here. Millions of Americans already do many of their interactions with a business online but there is a rare occasion that an issue cannot be resolved online and real time human customer service is needed. A recent example that I can give is my online trading account with TDAmeritrade. I had one stock of a company that was delisted from the stock exchange and since I want to close my position (it is not possible to trade a stock that is no longer listed) this year, the only reason I could do that was by working with a rep. I had called the company after several years, it was a brief call, and we both knew what other steps needed to be taken online.
I am really hoping that companies will see the value of providing excellent human customer service and staffing it with people who are there to address a customer’s concerns and do what it takes to make them satisfied (I hope all those companies that want to sell you stuff when you call to complain about their product/service will stop doing so).