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.
Originally published: 10 September, 2010
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