Looking around, it’s easy to see how many companies have developed customer service strategies using the telephone. Take, for example, some of the fast-food establishments, who actively promote toll-free “care” lines. Soft drink companies and cleaning product companies have care lines. (Care lines are increasing at a rapid pace in some industries.)

So what is the value of good customer service? It increases customer loyalty, reduces cost, promotes your company through positive word of mouth, differentiates you from your competition and allows you to charge premium prices for your products and services.

We all want to deliver good customer service and want our customers to go out and recommend us to their friends, family and colleagues. Yet finding the most efficient and cost-effective way of doing this can be difficult.

The telephone can play an important part in developing a comprehensive customer service strategy and should be looked at not just for the obvious applications of inbound care lines, but for proactive applications that could preempt issues before they arise.

Service isn’t just about answering calls quickly (within three rings is what I usually hear). It’s also important that the person you speak to has all the information you want and that you do not have to repeat yourself. Unfortunately, I have lost count of the number of times I have had to do the latter with companies these days—even by some of the so-called top service companies.

When it comes to badly handled calls, 86 percent of customers would prefer not doing business with a company again if a single call is bungled. And yet many companies put inexperienced, poorly trained staff at the front end of their business. Worst of all, when you have a problem, you can’t get it resolved easily.

Unfortunately, customer care is still regarded by many as a costly activity or a burden on resources. Some organizations have already recognized the importance of customer care and a few are very advanced in its practice.

Every contact that an existing or potential customer has with your company is a moment of truth. It could be how quickly their calls were answered, how long it took your company to send out a brochure, what happens when the delivery driver turns up with the product, how accurate the invoice is, etc.

Of course, these moments of truth will differ from company to company and industry to industry. But it’s these instances of customer interaction by which your company will be judged. Do you know what your company’s are?

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Jonathan Farrington is a globally recognized business coach, mentor, author, consultant and chairman of The JF Corporation and CEO of Top Sales Associates. For more information and tips from Jonathan, visit http://www.topsalesworld.com/, or go to his blog at http://www.thejfblogit.co.uk/.