Excellent customer service is a fundamental for success in our businesses. Unfortunately, it is all too often lacking.
So, how can we improve customer service in our companies?
- Hire and Develop Employees that Actually Like People: Customer service starts and stops with each individual employee that touches a customer. To be effective, each of our individual employees has to genuinely like people and be sincerely interested in solving the problems of the customers that they are dealing with. Grumps, grumblers, and grouches rarely like people and thus can never really give good customer service – they just do not care enough.
- Require Each Individual Employee to be a Customer Service Ambassador: As I wrote in a previous blog, Three Fundamentals of a Customer Service Culture, we need to ensure that our employees are:
- Responsive to customer’s needs and requests
- Focused on what is important to the customer
- Accountable and empowered to solve the customer’s issue
- Train Employees on Customer Service: To be clear on our desired level of customer service, we, as managers, need to work with our employees to create scripts on how to respond to the different customer requests that happen on a daily basis:
- Scripts on how to greet customers or answer phones
- Scripts on how to respond to a customer request (in person, over the phone, via E-Mail)
- Scripts on how to respond to a customer complaint
- Scripts on how to ensure that the customer is satisfied
- Scripts on how to thank the customer for their business
Without such scripts (which the employees can amend or add to), our employees will inevitably respond in ways that do not promote the customer service culture we want in our companies:
- “No problem”
- “No, we don’t do that”
- “That is not my issue.”
- “Hey, it is not my fault.”
Once we have created and taught the basic scripts, it is our job to train our employees to use these (or similar) scripts 100% of the time. We can do this by quick role plays with one employee or manager being the customer and the other employee practicing using the script.
- Inspect our Employee’s Customer Service: Once we have trained and role played, we need to ensure that our employees are using the scripts and customer service tools that we have provided.
- We should give tests or assessments of the employee’s customer service.
- As managers, we need to be on the front lines listening and observing our employees in action
- We need to start a ‘secret shopper’ program. With a secret shopper program, someone calls in, walks in, or E-Mails in and assesses the overall customer experience.
These inspections allow us to determine whether our customer service lessons are truly being put into practice.
- Insist on Transparency: The hardest thing for us as managers is that we rarely know when there are customer service issues.
- As managers, we usually do not know how many customers we failed to satisfy today.
Thus, we need to require that our front-line employees notify their manager any time that they have an irate or upset customer. Yes, the employees can often handle it. But, this allows management to be aware and get involved. If necessary, management can help solve the problem by clearing away hurdles or giving a refund or credit (that might be above the threshold of the front-line employee). And it allows management to see and know the amount and types of customer service issues that are popping up on a daily basis.
By following these five steps, we will be well on our way to improving our customer service.