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The Key to Good Service: Remember the Basics

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Customer service has come a long way in the last 10 years, especially with improvements in technology that allow us to form better relationships with our clients.

For example, CRM (customer relationship management) systems tell us our clients' likes, dislikes, and buying habits so we can offer more personalized service. At a touch of a button, integrated call centers notify and direct employees to respond to specific complaints or issues. And management consultants and business executives describe organizations with buzzwords like "customer-focused" and "customer-centric." All of these tools are used in the quest to develop perfect customer service.

While many companies claim to have great customer care and service, most miss the boat. Although using the latest technologies is essential, it is about building your business around your customer base and using your corporate strategy, tools, and processes to effectively provide services to your client. At ABM, we feel that in order to truly be an effective service-based company, you must understand your customer's needs and build your service platform to be in line with them.

Commit to the Customer

In a true "customer-focused" organization your customer or client is at the center of your business model. From accounting to sales to operations, business should be conducted with the customer's needs in mind. In essence, don't make your business hard to work with. We start our relationships with our clients with roundtable meetings where we discuss, in detail, how we plan to execute our services. The feedback and interaction between the parties is essential to making the relationship thrive.


In order to execute your strategy or business model, you need to provide your employees and customers tools to work with. At ABM all levels of management use BlackBerry devices so they can be in contact with customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition, ABM uses websites and PDAs (personal digital assistants) that allow customers to do anything from logging service requests to looking at energy-management reports. Again, the web allows for 24/7 access; floods, fires, and other disruptions wait for no one.

Communication and Empowerment

Communication and empowerment are probably the most important aspects of providing good customer service. Good communication within an organization ensures that everyone is moving in the same direction. The fulfillment of a corporate strategy and empowerment ensure that these same employees are able to take responsibility and fix any issues that may arise through the course of doing business. In the facilities-services industry, empowering the employees who perform the front-line services like cleaning and security also ensures that the customers remain happy.

Training and Indoctrination

All employees, from the front line up to management, should take part in training to better understand the industry's and company's expectations when it comes to customer service. However, the training needs to be ongoing so that being service based becomes not just a part of the job but rather a part of the corporate culture. The training programs and processes also need to change as the industry and the clients evolve.


The unexpected will always occur, no matter how much you prepare. The key is to be prepared to respond in a timely fashion to minimize disruption to your client. During adverse weather conditions or special events, ABM's management prepares its local teams for the unexpected by bulking up on resources to minimize any damage, facility shutdowns, or other types of disruptions.

These five principles, used in conjunction, can significantly impact a company's approach to customer service and to its client base. But one must understand that although these principles seem quite simple in nature, the entire process of creating a genuinely effective customer service-based organization takes time and effort from all levels of management. If you are successful, you will see higher customer ratings and overall customer loyalty.

Scott Salmirs © 2007
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