3 Questions Featured

7:00pm EDT February 23, 2009

Steve DeBauge has worked with Texas Instruments for 20 years. In the past five years, he has directed customer support operations for Texas Instruments’ education technology business. Prior to this role, he was a field marketing operations manager, regional manager, marketing center of excellence coach, market development manager and an education technology consultant for customers of the education technology business.

Where should customer service sit in importance for any company?

It depends on the type of business and the business model. If product development and marketing are essential to ensure you develop and deliver products that truly meet customers’ needs, customer support is an important augmentation to the product and the company’s brand. Customer service is necessary to ensure that customers are successful in their pre- and post-sale product experience. The interaction a customer has with customer support can make or break a customer’s experience with the product or the company as a whole.

Should companies be investing in customer service in a poor economy?

Companies everywhere are looking for ways to cut expenses, however, this should be done prudently, especially when it comes to customers’ support experience. Maintaining robust customer support provides a company with a means to differentiate itself from competitors in a down economy, build advocacy and gain positive word-of-mouth recommendations. This will leave a company better positioned as the economy recovers.

How does a company achieve good customer service?

A company achieves good customer service first through its people who are focused and empowered to help customers succeed. This entails disciplined hiring practices, ongoing training, coaching, feedback and establishing the right environment for them to take ownership and thrive in advocacy for your product. Process is a critical component, ensuring that there are inherent efficiencies in support for customers. Technology, as an enabler, must be used to the benefit of customers and customer support professionals. In today’s Web-based market, offering online self-help alternatives is a must. It benefits the customer when it’s their preferred channel for support and ultimately lowers support costs. You must also have the flexibility to change business processes and support as product offerings and marketing programs change.