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In customer care ''excellence'' has remained a very important word. If other words like ''customer'' and ''service'' are added to excellence the resulting phrase ends up in an organization striving and being passionate in their endeavour to satisfy their customers in an excellent manner. Efforts have been made by the public and government sectors, specifically in the UK, in order to better the standard of customer services. UK Government has made a customer service strategy and have developed a standard for it (Web 3). The Customer Service Excellence Standard (CSE) strategy will ensure the provision of effective, efficient empowering and equitable public services. Customer Service Excellence ensures the provision of the means that would help the companies to provide services that focus the customers of public bodies. But there is no restriction on the use of this standard, therefore private companies can also make use of it and embed it into their companies strategy as they need to be constant review of their customers' needs (Web 3). Hence it can be said that CSE has benefits for both organizations in public and private sectors. Staff recognition and celebrations are some more benefits that CSE delivers. CSE also lays out a structure for the measurement of the satisfaction of the customers, and also provides the justification and rationale of the procedures and practices, which are very thorough and rigorous. It promotes the concept of customer services also makes sure that there is improved customer service and satisfaction is being achieved (Web 3).
Supermarkets and convenience markets and stores dominate the UK retail market. According to (Mintel, 2010) these make up ¾ of the overall sales revenue and the rest of the market share is made up by the old and traditional retail outlets. In recent years there has been a rise in the trend of the generation of sales revenue and the revenue that is generated overall. There are many supermarket chains in the UK retail sector and Sainsbury's is one of the 'Big 4' supermarket chains. Its main business activities are the provision of grocery and other linked dealing all over the UK. Convenience stores, supermarkets and a bank encompass the business activities of Sainsbury's (Datamonitor, 2009). There is a wide range of products that is being offered and sold at the Sainsbury's. It offers clothing, computer peripherals, gift items and books, kitchen and other appliances, meat and fish, fuel and petrol, homeware, pharmaceutical drugs, alcohol and beverages besides food and groceries (Keynote, 2009). The aim of Sainsbury's is to satisfy its customers and provide them with a great shopping experience and also taking into account the quality of products at reasonable prices. The basic objective is to ensure better lives of their customers by providing them with safe, fresh, healthy and tasty food (Web 2). Another objective of Sainsbury's is to achieve a status of market leader by exceeding the needs of the customers and coming up to or above the expectations of the customers by furnishing them with safe, healthy and fresh and tasty food at a very reasonable price, ensuring an excellent customer service (Web 1).
Importance of excellent customer service:
There is a great battle going on between the leading retail supermarkets in the UK and their main aim is to win as much of UK population as they can. It's very fascinating when their respective strategies are analysed given both their marketing and business scenario (KeyNote, 2009). If the total market share of the 4 big firms is observed it can be noticed that UK possesses the bigger share of grocery outlet stores in Europe (Mintel, 2009). Perfect customer service can be provided only if the companies ensure that their customers are fully satisfied. As a result different retail outlets have tried to win specific market segments, improve their service and have tried to emphasise and concentrated their efforts convenience but most of all they have tried to ensure an excellent customer service. Nowadays, the business environment is constantly changing and there is an immediate effect on the company's finances by the customer services. Wilson (2010) states that if the company has a good repute with its customers, only then can the company achieve excellent customer service. It is imperative for businesses to have a good relationship with their customers and to enhance their satisfaction. It is strongly believed by Cook (2004) that customers are kept satisfied and happy. There is a valid reasoning behind this statement. It is 5 times expensive to win a new customer than to retain an existing customer. Customer service excellence is highly important in supermarkets and retailing sectors because it aids in adding value to the value of the product and ensures customer satisfaction. It is understood that customers when happy with an excellent customer service experience will garnish more references to their respective relatives and friends (Faulkner, 2007). To make sure the customers get what they require it is necessary to ensure an effective communication with their customers. If employees of the supermarket know how to engage customers and listen to their needs, they can pinpoint how to make their customers happy. It is true in sector such as supermarket retail that customer service can make or break business dealings. According to Madhavi (2004), excellent customer service results in more sales, satisfied clients and more revenue. Research by Clarke and Baker (2004) explains that excellent customer service Is vital for competitive retail market companies as lack of good service can have an undesirable impact on companies. Consumers may switch to competitors who provide the same price, same value products but with better services. Baker (2004) studied the customer service excellence and according to his research; excellent customer service exists from the inside out. It would be easier for sales forces and workers to provide consumers what they desire when a supermarket has processes in place that aim to make customers happy. Hundreds of books and articles are written on the topic of customer service. Organizations constantly focus on the importance of providing superior service, and everyone seems to agree that it is essential to long-term business success, especially in today's competitive marketplace. Customer service is important to the retail sector because without customers there would not be a business (Cook, 2006). The supermarket chain can have every product that customers could possibly want, but if it doesn't treat customers well, it can kiss the business goodbye. Numerous studies have shown that it costs more to acquire new customers than it takes to retain existing ones. Excellent customer service results in increased sales, increasing public image, survival in terms of competition, satisfied customers and greater job satisfaction for staff. It also leads to repeat business and customer loyalty (Cook, 2006).
Sainsbury's approach to customer service:
Sainsbury's is convinced that customer service excellence is the key to rapid growth when it comes to the changing and intensely competitive retail market (Web 2). Sainsbury's aim of becoming a more customer-oriented supermarket. This strategy of Sainsbury's seeks to address organizational culture around customer service by focusing on access to services (Mintel, 2010). The aim of Sainsbury's is to satisfy its customers and provide them with a great shopping experience and also taking into account the quality of products at reasonable prices. The basic objective is to ensure better lives of their customers by providing them with safe, fresh, healthy and tasty food (Web 1). Another objective of Sainsbury's is to achieve a status of market leader by exceeding the needs of the customers and coming up to or above the expectations of the customers by furnishing them with safe, healthy and fresh and tasty food at a very reasonable price, ensuring an excellent customer service (Web 1). To ensure that clients keep coming back, Sainsbury's employees are trained to give personal attention and from rom start to finish, Sainsbury's customer service team is expected to personally handle every aspect of a client's requirements. For Sainsbury, it is critical that every client inquiry is correctly routed to the most suitable customer service team member, first time, every time. To meet its exacting requirements, the board of directors of Sainsbury's chose to replace Sainsbury's aging key system voice solution with the latest more advanced version. The corporate social responsibility is very evident with the organisations policies on food safety. This policy includes health and safety of the customers. This corporate social responsibility policy portrays the organisation to consumers as a caring company (Web 2).
Faced with increasing competitive pressure Sainsbury's strategy is to provide higher service levels and greater customer intimacy to differentiate from its competitors, who all focus on cost efficiency. As part of its strategy, the company introduced the concept of balancing customer intimacy and customer efficiency as a key objective. This meant driving efficiency wherever customer intimacy created little value for customers and building capability in the areas customers care about most. The challenge however, is to realize this strategy, particularly through the service function. Sainsbury's worked to design the Customer Service Excellence (CSE) project. The overall ambition is to deliver new levels of customer service that would drive growth for the company (Web 1). Another important customer service strategy of Sainsbury's is to make marketing solely responsible for customer care and create a separate customer marketing function to protect, nurture, and leverage its core assets (customers) for more productively (Mintel, 2010). The company works to improve customer relations. Sainsbury's uses relationship marketing to build an understanding of their customers and respond to their needs CRM that has allowed the company to operationalize all of the customer services processes. Sainsbury's has implemented CRM to gather information about customers and analyse the information collected to give accurate idea about consumer perceptions. This resulted in improved customer satisfaction and loyalty. Another important strategy of Sainsbury's is branding. Sainsbury's has been particularly successful because of its powerful brand. It has a reputation for value, low prices and for being customer focused. Its brand equity and associations have helped the company to expand into new sectors and markets. Sainsbury's has also been strong in public relations, advertising and building profile in catchment areas on a local level. This local approach to marketing appears to be a key driver for better customer service. Sainsbury's is one of the most advanced companies in consumer understanding aided by IT. The company has a better understanding of consumer segments and shopping profiles. IT has helped Sainsbury's strategy to build loyalty and develop promotion offerings that suit customers (Web 2).
Despite the advances already achieved, there is still much scope for further improvement, not least because customer's expectations are always rising.
Cook (2006) speaks of the two rules that companies with outstanding service follow and with make them better than the other are 'they step out and they stand out'. Providing the customers with exceptional service is a commitment to serve the customers to the highest level of service, each employee of the Sainsbury's should be extraordinarily committed. This will ensure its success over the competitors. Sainsbury's must lay out a course plan and keep in mind their business customs and how to attract customers productively through its management and offered values, to become an exceptional service providing organization. Transparency of objectives is what makes excellent performance companies flourish and prosper (Iglesias, 2010). The fundamentals of delivering great customer service can be refined into segments such as effective customer intelligence, as believed by Tschohi (2008). Supermarkets like Sainsbury's have an exigent job of tracking customers and understanding their buying patterns, although this job has been made much easier with the introduction of loyalty cards and internet. In improving customer service having confidence in front-line customer service staff is vital (Wilson, 2010). It is not the companies that deliver great customer service but the people who deliver it. The company that empowers its customer service agents to perform autonomously and think independently delivers the finest customer service (Zhou, 2010). The company should also have an insight of the customer psychology. Testing for the customer's psychological experience, while shopping, has been taken in consideration by a few companies in the region. Working for and with the people who value service excellence, is essential for Sainsbury's. Customer service should be an important concern of the board (Samat, and Ramayah, 2010). Proper establishment designing is one recommendation that the company should consider. Organization design ensures the functioning of service excellence. The fundamentals of organization design are the effectiveness of the management procedures in facilitating the required results, particularly in the customer complaints division. Customer loyalty and positive recommendations through customers are dependent on the provision of a great experience (McKnight, 2009). Masters of excellence also realize that customers with complaints can become brand advocates through effective complaint resolving procedure. The quality of service is changing constantly through technology. Grasping each opportunity and realizing threats eliminates the possibility of failure (Wilson, 2010). A few technologies changing the backdrop considerably in customer service are web-chat, email, SMS and Enterprise Feedback Management. Another important recommendation is drawing lessons from errors. To err is human, but learning from one's mistakes paves the path to success. Mistakes made by individuals or teams should be taken as a chance to learn and to grow. As customers are known to be impatient, make things easier for them. Customer follow-up is also important, let them know that they are valued customers, that the company has the solution to their problems and that their needs can be met. Proper staff training and emphasis on 'customers come first', is required for outstanding customer service. To earn customer loyalty for repeated business is an important customer strategy (Wilson, 2010). The company must maintain a customer logbook to keep in touch with its customers, which in itself is a science and must ensure the provision of quality services and utmost of satisfaction so that they are retained and new customers are attracted.