Magazine

Safeguarding Service


Times are unquestionably tough. But cutting too deeply may only make things worse. Here are four ideas for keeping costs down and customer service solid

FLEX YOUR WORKFORCE

Cutbacks in staffing levels may be necessary as sales slow. But to keep service quality high, make the most of the workers you have. Cross- train employees so they can step up to fill a variety of needs—and you can avoid making new hires.

SPOIL SURVIVING STAFF

Slashing jobs and benefits can wreak havoc on morale. If you must cut back, keep the front lines happy with flexibility and other rewards. American Express (AXP), for example, now lets call center reps choose their own hours and swap shifts without supervisors' approval.

INVEST IN SIMPLE TECHNOLOGY

It may not be the best time to upgrade your call center with pricey software. But easy self-serve solutions such as in-store Web cams that link customers with remote tech experts can serve multiple locations at minimal cost.

BABY YOUR BEST CUSTOMERS

Now is not the time for equal treatment. Keep your most active buyers coming back with faster service, extra attention, and flexible rules. As business travel slows, Marriott, for instance, is extending elite status to its best guests even if they don't qualify under normal rules.

This year's list of customer service champs.

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