NEW YORK, NY — In a keynote presentation today at Small Business Summit 2006 in New York, Charles Hand, president of Verizon Wireless' New York Metro Region, told more than 450 small business owners that the key to getting and keeping customers is a careful balance of high-tech and human touch.
With a nationwide workforce of 57,000 employees serving 51.3 million customers, Hand said Verizon Wireless uses technology to serve customers "on their own terms online, on the phone and in person."
"But it's how and when we use that technology that differentiates us from our competitors and earns us accolades throughout the industry," he said.
Good customer service begins with employees who are dedicated to the pursuit of a single overarching corporate goal and passionate about doing what's right for customers, Hand told Summit participants.
"For Verizon Wireless, that goal has been building the nation's most reliable wireless network. It's the foundation of all we do and the essence of what our customers expect," he said. "It's a network that has evolved from voice to data, from information to entertainment. It takes what you can do somewhere and makes it possible to do it anywhere."
Because the reward for good work is more work, Hand said that, as customer expectations increase, small businesses must be vigilant in communicating with employees about their core business values and with customers about their commitment to providing the best possible customer experience. He cited, as examples, the Verizon Wireless Corporate Credo, his company's internal statement of core values, and the "Worry-Free Guarantee®," a money-back guarantee on all Verizon Wireless equipment and the option of changing plans, without penalties and fees, if customers are not satisfied.
"Our goal is for all of our customers to be customers for life," Hand said. "Our Worry-Free Guarantee is the tool we use to tell them so."
After outlining a number of initiatives Verizon Wireless has undertaken to improve the customer experience in its Communications Stores and national customer service contact centers, Hand stressed the importance of using objective metrics to measure how well a company is serving its customers.
"For Verizon Wireless, those metrics begin with the daily assessment of network performance by the real-life test men and test women who inspired the company's national "Can you hear me now?" advertising campaign. The engineers conduct more than 300,000 call attempts monthly on Verizon Wireless' and other national wireless carriers' networks while traveling over 100,000 miles a month nationwide in specially equipped, company-owned quality test vehicles.
"Equally important, however, is the key internal measure of customer loyalty known in the industry as churn or customer turnover," he said. "We all know that it costs a great deal more to bring on a new customer than to satisfy and keep an existing one, so customer churn is a big deal in our very competitive business. In 2005, Verizon Wireless posted the highest level of customer loyalty in the industry."
Hand concluded his comments by sharing five important lessons with small business owners:
- Make customer service an attitude, not a department. Institute internal cultural programs, like first call resolution, and never stop communicating corporate values to your employees.
- Constant and consistent training is key to an outstanding customer experience.
- Listen to your front line employees; they know best how to satisfy their customers.
- Invest in your company website and simplify your Interactive Voice Response systems to make them as user-friendly as possible. Sometimes the best customer service is self service
- Give your customers options to ask questions, get information and discuss problems on their own terms online, on the phone or in person.
Editors Note: The full transcript of Charles Hand speech is available upon request.
About Verizon Wireless
Verizon Wireless owns and operates the most reliable nationwide wireless network, serving 51.3 million voice and data customers. Headquartered in Bedminster, NJ, Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) and Vodafone (NYSE and LSE: VOD). Find more information on the Web at www.verizonwireless.com. To preview and request broadcast-quality video footage and high-resolution stills of Verizon Wireless operations, log on to the Verizon Wireless Multimedia Library at www.verizonwireless.com/multimedia.