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The secrets of good customer service

Whether a company sells magazines or home furnishings, the path it follows always leads back to the customer.

Whether a company sells magazines or home furnishings, the path it follows always leads back to the customer. To mark Customer Service Week -- officially Oct. 1-5 this year -- searchCRM asked some companies for their secrets to better serve customers.

At New York-based DDM Press, the aim is to keep its customer service lighthearted, much like its publishing units, which include the young-male focused Maxim Magazine and Maxim Bookstore. For example, the company enlists editorial staff members to write humorous collection letters to delinquent subscribers.

"For us, (our CRM philosophy) is much more about tone and matching our audience," said Steven Kotok, DDM Press' publisher. "Our magazines and books are ... like the movie 'Animal House.' "

And to North Adams, Mass.-based, a catalog retailer of specialty goods, making itself accessible to customers is a primary concern, according to Dean Frost, vice president of operations.

EZiba tries to make it "as easy as possible" for customers to reach it via telephone, e-mail and live chat. The company also wants its customer service representatives to be equipped to advise customers on purchases. Because the catalog changes each month, representatives undergo monthly training, Frost said.

"It's an expensive investment that pays off," he said.

Covering all the touchpoints

At Sears Wishbook, the gift catalog arm of Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based Sears Roebuck & Co., customer service is still primarily done through telephone contact, according to Dave Shepherd, director of catalog operations for Sears Wishbook.

"Our philosophy is to provide world-class customer service at each touchpoint to our catalog customers," he said. Sears also uses ClientLogic as its inbound call center for the Wishbook catalog, which has worked out well for the company.

Nashville, Tenn.-based Shop At Home Inc.'s customer service philosophy is more proactive, to anticipate customer issues before they happen, according to Shane Seymour, vice president of customer experience.

Shop At Home's Web chat, e-mail, fax and telephone channels are mostly integrated, which allows a complete view of the customer, said Bob Miller, vice president of IT for Shop At Home. The company's call center, Web site and interactive voice response (IVR) system are incorporated into a homegrown CRM package, he said.

"By having all three channels integrated, we're allowing customers to shop on their terms," he said.

The integration also allows customer service representatives to better aid customers, Seymour said.

"Being able to see all the customers' interactions allows us to provide a higher level of service and understand the nature of issues that might create customer service problems," he said.

And to companies like Shop At Home and others contacted by searchCRM, customer service is a year-round job, not just a one-week event sanctioned by the U.S. Congress.


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