Efficiency – it’s the concept all customer service managers must live by, whether we care to admit it or not.
Whether your business measures efficiency in transactions per hour, calls per minute or subscriptions per month, encouraging staff to do more is a constant challenge.
Every coin has two faces, and the customer services efficiency dilemma is much the same. Alongside the important issue of how much work is getting done, the issue of staff turnover – and, by extension, customer satisfaction, must also be considered.
Bain & Company partner Michael C. Mankins has likened efficiency drives to “the managerial equivalent of attempting to squeeze blood from a stone,” arguing instead for a productivity focus. However, in the service sector, productivity is hard to quantify, so the key is to balance the efficiency coin just right.
Here are five ways to save time and protect profits while keeping spirits high.
1. Boost your internet speed
What does your internet package have to do with efficiency? Quite a lot, as it happens. Slow internet connections cost organisations serious money – and much of this is leaked via inefficiency.
A 2013 survey revealed the average employee spends one whole week each year waiting for their network to load, which frustrates workers and costs employers thousands. In stores, restaurants, cafes and call centers, temperamental connections leave customers waiting, too. It might have got a little better since then – but down time is still a big problem.
How to make improvements? Comparing fiber optic packages is a good place to start, since these provide faster with more bandwidth. Fiber optic connections also tend to be more reliable, giving you one less thing to worry about.
2. Set goals and incentivize
Customer service staff need to be given goals. This helps them to understand their efficiency just as much as you do, which drives individuals ahead. The trick is to avoid mechanical targets and to instead focus on incentivization.
Rewards may include public recognition, gift certificates and even bonus afternoons away from the desk. Get this part right and you could incentivize other members of staff, too, since they’ll see the rewards and want their share.
3. Give feedback
Speed matters in customer service – but so does accuracy and quality of service. Giving regular feedback helps your representatives to get things right from the beginning, which eventually cuts the time it takes them to handle a complaint or run an order through the cash register.
Soft skills are particularly important, since these can help employees to wrap up conversations more quickly and avoid passing issues up the chain. Ultimately, this saves you time, too.
4. Match tasks to skills
Customer service environments can be diverse – a day’s typical tasks even more so. In a restaurant, some customer service representatives may be confident to handle parties of 20 or more, bringing in generous tips along the way. Others may focus on taking online orders or handling the phones. Each role plays an important part.
Customer service managers should match each team member to the task at hand to drive up quality and promote speedier results.
5. Think big picture
Typical ways to make efficiency savings include discontinuing team meetings and making layoffs.
Such approaches risk a fallout down the line, since they may squeeze out essential communications and staff wellbeing along with surplus resource. Before taking such steps, consider how you might strike a middle ground. Creating strict agendas for team meetings can ensure key messages are expressed in less time, for instance.
Above all, don’t lose sight of who really pays the bills in customer service – you guessed it, the customer. If the measures you’re implementing don’t benefit them, then it may be high time to revisit the drawing board.