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Customer Service Inquiries are Free Market Research

As a business, you should regularly ask yourself how you are positioned in the market.

If you don't pay attention to how well your products and services suit your customers, sooner or later they will shop somewhere else.

Now, you could, of course, go about and hire a market research expert, or send out questionnaires to a bunch of people, but I have a suggestion that is much easier: look at why your customers are calling your service department.customer inquiries

Evaluate why a customer contacted you

The fact of the matter is that normally we do not contact customer service departments unless we have some kind of problem (at least I do not call my cable provider regularly to tell them that everything is working just fine). It does not have to be a big problem, it could be that I just have a small question regarding the latest invoice, but even this represents an exception from a 100% working service. If absolutely everything is working perfectly, I would not contact them. Contacting them means something could have been better, such as the information on the invoice being a bit more elaborate.

Now, let's imagine that my cable provider keeps track of all these inquiries. And that each inquiry is registered in a database, and classified by what caused me to contact them. Then the provider would be able to report on this, and measure how many inquiries they are getting every month from people with questions related to their invoices, and see how this number has developed over time.

If the number of customer inquiries related to invoice questions are too high, then the cable provider should try to improve the information printed on their invoices, and measure if this helps on the number of inquiries.

Other type inquiries the cable provider might be interested in could be measuring how many customers contact them about the quality of their TV channel packages, their video-on-demand selection and/ or the user-friendliness of their set-top-box. If a lot of people are complaining about their prices, then they should probably reconsider their offering. If they are not getting any complaints at all, then they are either delivering a perfect service, or they need to verify their contact information.

It's all in the system

As a fundamental way to start measuring your customer service inquiries, you need to have some kind of system in place. I guess you can always get away with pen and paper, but when it comes to structuring information nothing beats a database.

A well configured customer service system should quickly let you track the inquiry, classify on what caused the customers' problem, when it happened, which one of your products or services it was related to, how large the impact was, and how much time you spent fixing the problem and responding to the customer.

Now you can sum up on any of these attributes, and view how it evolves over time, using out-of-the-box customer service reports. And keep in mind, this data has a very high quality: In contrast to half-heartedly filled out questionnaires, the customer services inquiries represents real problems, important enough to make the customer contact you.

No matter what your business is, I think you probably have some kind of customer service department. Your customers will contact this department and tell you what is wrong. This information, if you listen to it, will make you a better provider. This is free market research. The information is already there, all you need to do is harvest it.

If you're interested in more ideas on how to improve your business' customer service levels, read our tips on how to deliver outstanding customer service.

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