HG Raghunath, who heads the pan-Tata ‘after sales service excellence group’, on the role of customer service in commanding a premium and the importance of the human touch
Premiumisation has two dimensions: the way we are able to price and command good margins, and the number of times customers come back to buy our products (with Titan watches, for example, 33 percent of all purchases in a year are by repeat customers). Premiumisation is also about how your dealers, associates and channel partners recommend your products to customers.
Premium brands across the world work overtime on their differentiators. This could be through customer experience, the brand’s promise or a slew of fantastic products. However, in an era when product technology, platform and even design can be replicated, excellent customer service – which is all about human interaction and cannot be easily replicated – stands out as the truest differentiator.
The customer knows there is no perfect product, that products can fail. What customers would like is not a theory on product failure but how you, as an organisation or brand, fix the problem and regain their confidence. This is where customer service as a philosophy comes into play. This philosophy is not a department or a function; it is the company saying: ‘When you buy my brand, I make a promise, a promise to give you a delightful experience.’
Customer service offers the opportunity to connect with our customer and keep this relationship going. The ‘servicing facility’ in the automobile industry is a fantastic way for companies to interact with customers and win their trust. A happy customer is a loyal brand ambassador who will tell a hundred people about his happy experience. That, to me, is the best marketing strategy.
Customer expectations keep evolving due to technology, information and, these days, social media and the internet. Companies must keep innovating to meet these expectations and there are several tools available to measure and understand customer expectations and experiences.
We have to move away from thinking that ‘customer service’ is a department; it is not. Customer service is a philosophy, a culture of the company. It has to be driven by the entire organisation.
By HG Raghunath, Head, pan-Tata, after sales service excellence group – Tata Review Magazine