The Management Blog
Tips & advice to help you improve your performance
No one likes speaking to an angry person, but this scenario is even more difficult to handle when the person is a client of yours.
This is a unique relationship where you have to tread very carefully to make sure the client is left happy, lest they take their business elsewhere. Learn More
Making improvements to customer service can provide many advantages to a business.
First, by offering a more helpful, faster and friendlier experience to customers, a company can benefit from higher sales, less returns and overall happier clients. Learn More
Customers are what make any business a success or a failure.
You may have the most innovative products or services, but without tailoring them to your clients, you will not make any sales. Learn More
If you are a leader in a larger business or public sector organisation then you are probably not dealing with external clients on a regular basis. It is therefore easy (once you have agreed with them) to leave the policing of your customer service standards to other people. Here is the danger when you do that! Learn More
Many people who manage teams in customer service are aware of the need to display vision and customer focus in their businesses, but less people are able to apply this in the real-world atmosphere of the hot-house business.
To create a culture takes time and effort. And you can’t demand this quality service from people; they have to want to deliver it from their hearts, and that’s not an easy concept to transfer to people.
How can you create a culture that breeds customer loyalty and continuous satisfaction? Here are some steps you can take:
1) Be clear on what the core values of the business are in respects to service excellence
2) Ensure everyone in the business knows them and understands them
3) Ensure top management agree with and live those values
4) Plan for improvement programmes that can be run in-house, rather than waiting for external customer service courses to come around
5) Identify what areas need to improve in their quality of service to hit the desired standards
6) Ensure all values are driven internally and offer internal customers the same standards as you would for external customers
7) Decide how the behaviours of front-line staff can be agreed and monitored
8 ) Get the right people to be the service ambassadors for your business. You don’t want all your efforts going to waste because people don’t believe in this stuff
9) Plan how you are going to monitor and reward performance at the sharp end
10) Carry out recognition programmes that reward the behaviours you are seeking from your teams
By highlighting how the business will succeed by promoting a customer-focused culture, you are more likely to get support and recognition from the people in authority, whose support is vital for the success of any programme, and from the people who really matter – the teams carrying out the front-of-house jobs that determine how successful the culture will bed in.
How do you know if you are offering excellent customer service? Most companies tell us they use focus groups, surveys, response cards, mystery shopping, etc, and all these are valuable to create an awareness of exactly hat you’re doing right and wrong.
But unless you use another, cheaper, closer-to-home method, you might be missing a trick.
Who has the closest interaction with your clients and can often see where the glaringly obvious but often overlooked areas of improvement are?
Naturally, it’s your customer-facing staff, and they have the best opportunities every day to share data and customer responses in real time and from right at the coal face. It shows also that you value their opinions, respect their viewpoints and show that you’re serious about providing the environment for quality customer service.
How do we go about it?
Any system you introduce must be organised so that customer-facing staff understand what information will be useful and how that information can be gained from customers
The system should be simple to use and be quick in its operation (check sheets, report forms, etc)
There should be a simple way of reporting the information, so staff know it is important and will be looked at
Action has to be taken on the feedback
This can provide a good analysis of training and development needs within the department, like coaching in questioning and listening skills, building rapport or empathy
What’s your role in all this?
You need to lay the foundation so everyone knows the reason why the process is being carried out. It shouldn’t be seen as a spying exercise on staff, or to add extra inconvenience to them; they should see the benefits of any such process and how it all aims for excellence in customer service.
You need to walk the talk. If staff see you spouting excellence in what you say, but see you cutting corners and complaining about customers in reality, they aren’t going to take any programme like this seriously.
Staff can be then be involved in group discussions or individual meetings. Managers can begin by asking some or all of the following questions:
* How do we know if our clients are satisfied with our service?
* How would we know if they didn’t?
* What do we need to know to find out about our clients’ perceptions?
Then you can determine the style of questions that can be asked at any time when you contact clients.
Ensure that all staff get to see the results of any work they contribute to, This will mean you are serious about improving quality and they are more willing contribute.
Make sure that the data collected is used to make decisions regarding service improvement. You could design a meeting to share results on report, interpretation, actions and improvements. Make sure you put some consistency into it, and it’s not seen as an ad-hoc process, looked at when you might have the time. If you give it high priority, so will your staff.
Then, put the action plans to work. Ensure your goals are specific and measurable, and have an impact on the areas your staff said needed improving.
Share the successes and otherwise. Let people know how you are measuring excellence and make it a topic of discussion regularly.
Check on whether anything you have initiated needs changing, and actually make those changes. Nothing will kill a new initiative quicker than if you don’t create changes when the very people who are driving that change do not get responses from management.
If you create an atmosphere of excellence, your people will follow and will actually want to be excellent in all their contacts with customers. And that could be the very thing that drives your business forward in the future.
Chances are, whether you have direct client contact or not, you and your team members are providing some sort of customer service. You may not be dealing with outside clients, but in almost every situation you have some sort of internal client (another team, accounting, human resources, etc). Regardless of who your client may be, you need to have the customer service skills necessary to make your customers happy.
But how do you offer great customer service, from a management standpoint?
The happier your team members, the more their attitudes will rub off on their customer interactions – guaranteed.