One would think with all the resources provided by technology that customer service would not be an issue in today’s business world. At any given moment, there is survey after survey showing what customers want and the impact when customers don’t receive what they want. With outsourcing being rampant, having an organizational culture where excellence is a habit seems to be a no brainer.
Common sense suggests that if I want to keep my job that is based upon a continual stream of customers then it would be extremely beneficial to deliver professional customer service. Unfortunately, customer service still appears to be a significant issue and millions, if not billions, of dollars are being lost on a daily basis because organizations and employees still don’t get it. These 7 tips may help you to stem the tide and create a customer service culture where the goal of professionalism and excellence is achieved each and every business day.
Define Your Core Values
The Ritz Carlton had a simple core values statement that was shared by everyone: Ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen. Whatever your core values are, they must begin at the top and cascade down throughout the entire organization.
Review and Reassess Internal Policies and Procedures
Many organizations set their people up to fail because the policies and procedures are not customer service friendly. For example, I recently returned a phone call to a manager of a national chain who left me his extension. I listened to the automated message and waited to hear the usual statement:
If you know your party’s 3 or 4 digit extension, please dial that at any time followed by the # sign. When the message wasn’t heard, I hit the zero key and was told that it was not an appropriate key. I hung up and re-dialed. Then when prompted for “General Services,” I hit the appropriate key and learned I was speaking to someone on the front desk. This automated procedure was not creating a customer service culture of professionalism.
Talk to Your External Customers
Many companies have now developed the habit of surveying customers using the Internet. Yet, communicating through technology doesn’t allow for the organization to truly hear what is not being said. Remember what is seen is always heard before what is said. Take the time to conduct face to face interviews or at least telephone interviews. A good communicator can sense the tone and the nuances within the speech patterns of the person being interviewed.
Develop your Employees
Training is essential to performing any job. Yet, most people know how to answer the phone, but answering the phone consistently is really about development. When I called this hotel manager, 3 different individuals all of whom provided me with a different script greeted me. Knowing that consistency was a significant part of this hotel’s training, I knew that only one of them had delivered the “trained” response.
In speaking with the manager, he confirmed that all 3 were long time employees and should have spoken the same message. So the issue is not training or learning (the acquisition of knowledge), because the employees know what they need to say, but rather development or performance (the application of knowledge).
Align performance to quality criteria such as Baldrige
Just as the favorite cake from Aunt Emma or that delectable soup from your favorite restaurant, you know that every time you take a bite, you will receive exactly the same sense of utter enjoyment. Why? Because Aunt Emma or Chef Tony used the same proportions of quality food each and every time.
To deviate from that recipe would spell disaster and create enormous disappointment for their favorite people. The Baldrige criteria are one of the best predictors of organizational success. Employing such a criteria will help to create a customer service culture of professionalism.
Use Internal Customers Feedback
Checking with employees while they are employed and when they leave is a simple way to gauge what is happening within the company. Loyal internal customers or employees are what drive loyal external customers.
Performance appraisals and exit interviews can be tremendous tools to elevate customer service.
Ask yourself “Would I Buy from My Company or Me?”
Finally, ask yourself this simple question: “Would I Buy from My Company or Me?” Do you find yourself going to other places to shop or eat? Why are you taking such action? Is it because of company policy, prices are too high, lines are too long? If you wouldn’t buy from your company, then why should anyone else?
If you use these 7 basic tips, your company can create a customer service culture where professionalism is consistently high and loyal customers are the norm and not the exception.
By Christian Timmons