ECONOMY

High-profile customer service conference to be held in Athens

Athens will this month host Greece’s first «Customer Service Summit» organized by the Hellenic Customer Service Institute (EIEP) and featuring world-renowned experts in this field. The conference, to be held November 29-30, will have leading figures from around the world share the best service strategies with local professionals, says EIEP President Giorgos Panygirakis. «What we want to achieve is the consolidation of permanent quality standards that will guarantee the highest level of knowledge and practices of all professionals in customer service,» Panygirakis says. EIEP is a non-profit organization which promotes quality in service of customers and citizens in the public and private sectors. Its members include leading Greek and multinational companies, institutes and corporations. Its president, who is also a marketing professor at the Athens University of Economics and Business, says the conference will «become a catalyst accelerating the spread of specialized knowledge in serving customers.» Keynote and guest speakers will analyze the following topics: development, motivation and recognition of customer service staff; promotion of maintenance and growth of clientele; adoption of international supremacy standards in customer service; and efficient leadership as well as customer-centered culture. The conference also aims to promote the dynamic presence of EIEP in the business, academic and political activity of the country by upgrading the role of everyone in contact with customers. Speakers will include Colin Shaw, founder of Beyond Philosophy UK/USA, an expert in Customer Experience Management; Dr Sionade Robinson, a partner at Cape Consulting UK; Paul Cooper, who is in business development at the Institute of Customer Service UK; Professor Robert Johnston of the Warwick Business School and director of the service leadership program; and Andrea Mueller, a partner at MSR Consulting Group. Key figure Opening the event will be Bill Price, first vice president of amazon.com’s Global Customer Service, founder of Driva Solutions LLC and e-commerce lecturer at Marshall University. He coined the phrase that «the best service is no service,» which essentially means that very effective self-service trumps any high-speed efforts by a middleman. This champions a successful customer service strategy which guarantees from the point of sale that all will go well – that «no service» on the product is a promise by the company in any given transaction. Using his two decades of experience and knowledge in international customer service, Price will explain the application of that strategy through the example of amazon.com during his Athens conference talk. EIEP has conducted some surveys across Greece, the results of which will be announced during the two-day event. The conference will also include educational workshops involving the most important aspects of the customer service philosophy in corporations. Price will have his own workshop on «dealing with displeased customers,» where he will recount his experiences from his post at amazon.com, his cooperation with the telecommunications giant MCI and other recent examples from his customers. He will introduce methods to deal with the roots of these problems. As Price has said in an interview with Executive Know-How periodical, customers have in the last 20 years been flooded with options for investing time and money, yet are still unhappy with aspects of service. He also says that «companies do not listen to us anymore,» nor can focus groups «and other marketing techniques express how customers feel and what exactly they want.» «And we are lucky indeed when customers express their anger,» he said, since today customer service essentially means listening carefully to customer complaints and praises and informing managers accordingly to provide «next-generation solutions.» Along the same lines, Paul Cooper also recommends listening carefully to what customers are saying and using computer programs to document that feedback. Cooper deals primarily with corporate and media development at the Institute of Customer Service. The event is co-sponsored by Kathimerini and Skai radio station. For more information e-mail [email protected] or call 210.802.1145.