3 Questions Featured

7:00pm EDT February 23, 2009

Mike Palkovic is the executive vice president, operations, for DIRECTV Inc. He oversees primary contacts with customers from the initial point of sale through the life of the customer’s programming service, including customer service, field services and supply chain management. He joined DIRECTV in 1996.

Where should customer service sit in importance for any company?

At the top. Everyone in the company has to have the customer first in their thoughts for anything they do. If they aren’t answering calls directly from customers, they still have an impact on the way customers perceive the company through their work. Customers start a relationship with a company by making a purchase, but customer service must be reinforced throughout the relationship in order for the customer to continue the relationship. That is a companywide imperative.

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

Yes. Everything is at some level of prioritization. There’s no such thing as a blank check for any company that’s trying to manage the business with acceptable financial results, but this isn’t an area that you can just scale back and treat it as an area where you can manage simply from a bottom-line perspective. There are other costs involved when poor customer service is given such as customer turnover. There are too many things that come in to play to treat customer service importance at the same level as other expenses in the business. It’s not open-ended but should be treated as a priority. This isn’t the first place to look if looking to cut back.

What does good customer service entail?

It starts when a customer decides to buy your product through word-of-mouth or a strong brand name. When they come on board, the service experience begins with the product — it should always work; it should be easy to use and high-quality across the board. When someone has a question or a problem, it is handled quickly and professionally — hopefully on the first call. And that’s really what an organization has to do, is to continually meet expectations from the first time a customer chooses to use your product or service. You don’t want to give them any reason to revisit that decision to use your products.