I just read an article that cited several references to the fact that there is a new found respect for customer service. Given the increased expectations of members and customers, customer service is more complicated and demanding then ever before...and it is more important than ever before!
We all know that the more positive experiences a member or customer has the greater the probability that they will renew or buy more product. However, and let's face it, in the not so distant past we really did not respect that aspect of the sales process. If you don't agree, remember that many times customer service representatives were (and still are in some cases) measured against the amount of time it takes them to get a caller off the phone. We hope its the successful resolution of a problem, but that's not always the case (as I've personally experienced).
Now, many organizations and businesses have recognized the positive connection between customer satisfaction (if not something even greater than satisfaction) and increased sales. In addition, the customer service professional is also the point person to up-sell the member or customer. If I may, I'll relate a personal experience from only a few weeks ago.
This past Christmas I had the absolute joy (yes, JOY) of ordering from Crutchfield Electronics (www.Crutchfield.com). If you don't know them, they offer a wide variety of electronic products. My son had to have a specific radio for his car (2005 RED Mustang convertible - I want to be him when I grow up). He showed it to me and I immediately (2 weeks later) went to the website.
Now, what I know about car radios could fill a thimble. I am not an audio-phile. So, when I went to the site I was simply overwhelmed. I called customer service. My agent was FANTASTIC. I told him what I wanted and we discussed the pros and cons in simple, mono-syllabic words that had a basis in common english. He even kept me focused on getting the best buy based upon what I told him I was looking for - and believe once I got going I looked at several radios that had nothing to do with what I first set out to buy.
In fact, I was so pleased with my experience with this guy, I actually did purchase a more expensive model, but it was the next model up from the one my son asked for.
They then delivered the product within 3 days! Which was really good and gave me two days to wrap it before Christmas Day (c'mon, we all did last minute shopping).
This guy's patience and investment of an additional 12 minutes increased my sale over $75.00. And now I'm writing about and Crutchfield is getting a little more advertising.
This guy was a pro. Crutchfield is a well run business.
Looking ahead to 2011, don't skimp on your customer service team. Look for people who want to talk with people and want to solve their problems. Don't hamstring them with measurements based upon saving money, but measure them on how they can make you money with increased customer/member satisfaction and upsells. Also, listen to them. They are in many cases a front -line to your customer/membership base and can be an early warning system in case there is a problem AS WELL AS letting you know when a great opportunity arises.