The interviewee at General Electric told us that customers are central to your business operations because they are the key drivers for revenue. You have to constantly keep them satisfied through efficient before and after sale service. The main role of customer service is to answer all queries and complaints of the customer. It requires patient and active listening skills. You have to be helpful even if there is no direct profit. However, the benefit of customer service is that it ensures future profits through repeat purchase by existing customer.
Moreover the existing customer will talk about your business positively with their friends and family and this will bring new customers. The interviewee told us that word of mouth is very important and powerful marketing tool and it is very useful for durable products provided by General Electric. Since durable products are used for longer period of time therefore potential customers always take advice from their friends and family about which brand to purchase.
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The interviewee pointed out the three main issues at GE. The first one, he said, is the issue of time lag between the posting of complaint by the client and the solution provided by the customer service department. He said that in big companies the bureaucratic environment extends the time between client request and company response.
This is annoying for the customer who has to wait in the queue before his problem is solved. The second problem is that customer relation officers are often not engineers so they cannot provide quick and easy tips to the customer of GE’s high tech products. The third problem is little understanding of customer relations purpose by the customer service officers.
The company has implemented sophisticated and efficient telecommunication and computer system to establish customer contact, but behind these efficient systems the officer often lacks the understanding of purpose and importance of customer relation activities. There should be some kind of direct reward for every satisfied customer so that employees are motivated to serve them.
The current business climate is such that many companies have started production operations in China. The China has become an important agent in world trade as it successfully stormed the global financial meltdown and is now an engine of growth for world trade. GE also has operation in China to supply products to emerging markets through factories located in China.
China has recently shown a very stern attitude towards many multinational firms such as Google and Rio Tinto. GE has also faced some harsh treatment from Chinese which led Jeff Immelt, the CEO of GE, to criticize China. On July 2, 2010, he said that they do not want to become colonized by Chinese (Schumpeter, 2010). This attitude affects customer relations negatively through adverse business climate in China. The Chinese business system is not efficient enough for customer satisfaction. There are frequent delays in delivery and product quality problems (Frey, 2008).
Moreover the recent financial and credit crisis has reduced customer spending. Since the product supplied by GE is durable in nature, the people often delay their purchase for the future. This period of reduced customer confidence requires greater effectiveness from customer relation officer. Any inefficiency or mistake by the employee will turn away customer to the competitor. Hence this business environment places greater importance on customer service to retain customer loyalty until time becomes good (Beinhocker, 2010).
Hence the customer service environment in GE is spoiled by rude and selfish behavior of China which is the main source of global supply of products. China is the supplier as well as the major emerging market for GE’s product. Secondly the human resource is not well trained to offer technical understanding and advice to the customer.
The employee has to turn to engineers for resolution of queries (Buttle, 2008). Thirdly the employees are low paid in customer relation department. They are not provided with adequate motivation to devote their full energy to the customer request. Finally there are also some product quality issues which are very irritating for the customer and endanger their future loyalty to the company. Fridge, microwave, oven and dishwasher often do not perform as the customer expects and creates dissatisfaction in times of severe credit crisis (Lucas, 2008).
The customer service can be improved by providing a training session to teach employee the importance of their job so that they are constantly motivated to serve customers. Along with training, financial rewards are very important. Customer service officers should be provided competitive salary packages and bonuses. Then the mechanism of objective feedback should be developed so that employees are aware of their performance and how to improve them (Ward, 2009).
Employees should be provided freedom to take big decisions and encouraged to find creative solution to problems. This is very important in severe business climate when customer spending is low. The creative solutions will also help reduce bureaucratic effect of big firms. Researchers should be hired to anticipate the customer needs which should be fulfilled timely and efficiently. In the end customers are lifeblood of business and extra effort should be put in to satisfy them. Along with efficient communication system, a touch of humanity and courteousness should be added (Tim, 2010).
Buttle, F. (2008). Customer Relationship Management. Butterworth-Heinemann.
Frey, T. (2008). “Fourteen future trends for business in 2009 and beyond” DaVinci Institute. Retrieved July 25, 2010, from http://www.impactlab.com/2008/12/27/fourteen-future-trends-for-business-in-2009-and-beyond/
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