Reining in customer service costs while keeping customer satisfaction scores high is especially necessary--and especially difficult--in an uncertain economy. It's a balancing act so strenuous, many companies don't even attempt it. Instead, they respond to a downturn by cutting service costs at the expense of service quality in order to meet short-term financial targets. When the economy begins to recover, they try to win back customers by beefing up customer service--only to find it's too late. This article, by four partners at Bain & Company, explains why service efficiency and customer satisfaction are not incompatible goals. They identify three practices that can help companies balance efficiency and quality in their service operations: (1) Differentiate service levels and match them to corresponding customer segments; (2) Strive for consistent levels of service over several budget cycles; and (3) Share accountability and continually look for efficiencies in service operations.
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