Ellen outlines the key actions Customer Service Managers must take to ensure success in their role.
1. Pay your customer service people well
You expect a lot from your customer service staff, so pay them as if they matter. Too often, in many companies (not yours naturally) the pay scale for customer service staff is frankly an embarrassment. Benchmark peers in your industry and pay at the high end.
2. Give your customer service people a great working environment
I don’t care what the CEO’s office is like. He earns a good salary and can afford to make himself comfortable. He’s going to do a great job regardless. But if your customer service people are stuck in airless cubicles, with little space, no view, no natural light, a wobbly chair to sit on and an unreliable computer system to use, just a broken down vending machine and a dingy bathroom as facilities, then are they going to give of their best?
You should make sure that the environment your customer service people work in is as pleasant as the manager’s office. A fully functional, reliable computer system to help them serve your customers is a must. Space to move around, a comfortable seat – assuming they are going to do a lot of sitting down – good ventilation, if possible, windows onto the outside world, attractive colors, good lighting, pictures and plants, nice bathrooms, decent refreshment facilities. Just think what you would like for yourself, and give them that!
3. Train your customer service people like they were surgeons
A quick course or two in what your company does, and in customer service techniques, a few scripts to work from, and you’ve done your training, right? Wrong! Customer service staff have a high stress job.
They are dealing with the moaners and complainers all day long. They
need patience and charm to turn negative experiences into positive ones. They need excellent skills, and so you hired people with the right personal qualities. Now they need to be backed up with consistent, regular, training. Training is a motivator. It not only enhances skills, it makes people feel important, valued and special.
Customer service is tough, and training courses are also a chance to decompress and get away from the old routine. Invest in training as if
your people were surgeons – after all, your company’s life is in their hands.
4. Give everyone a stint in customer service
Everybody, from the top to the bottom of your company, should spend at least a couple of days a year shadowing a customer service person. You will be amazed at how much benefit this will bring you. Not only will the rest of the company realize what a tough job it is to be on the customer front line, they’ll see how the way they do their job impacts on customers’ experiences. Valuable operational insights and improvements will follow.
5. Give customer service staff a stint in other departments
If customer service people truly understand your business, they’ll simply do a better job. So it’s particularly helpful for them to spend time shadowing in areas such as quality control, delivery, document preparation and similar customer impact areas. The knowledge they gain will help them cut through to the heart of the issues they hear about each day, and they will be able to make customer oriented suggestions for improvements.
6. Allow customers to supply feedback
We are used to hearing that “Your call may be monitored for quality control purposes.” In addition, it’s a great idea to allow customers to make immediate feedback on customer service – both good and bad. Use the information to highlight good and bad performance, to train and educate, but not to punish.
7. Make customer service fun
Ideally, arrange your customer service staff into teams. Mix up new and old, stronger and weaker employees, so that they can help, advise and teach each other. If you can devise a competition between teams, so much the better. This is great in situations where people are taking a lot of very routine inquiries all day long.
It doesn’t have to be for anything very grand. One of the most popular and hotly contested competitions I ever organized was for possession of a fluffy spider which jumped when you squeezed an air bulb. The best team of the day got the spider all the next day, and they could be seen jumping the spider around while they chatted over the telephone to callers.
8. Use customer service as a stepping stone to promotion
Employ qualified people in customer service. Have them spend a year there, and then review them for promotion to customer service management. Anywhere they go in your company, they will be ingrained with the understanding of what the customer wants and needs from your company.
Customer service people do particularly well in sales, but they can be invaluable in all departments. The fact that customer service is a route to promotion enhances the prestige of the job and aids your recruitment of good quality people.
About the Author
Ellen Goodwright is a freelance writer and a passionate customer service advocate! You can read more of her customer service tips at Customer Service Basics.