In our efforts to provide great customer service, we often forget to remember that it's important to get the customer to participate in helping us to do so. In some situations, customers can assist in the quest if given the opportunity. Here are a three ways to proactively do so:
Tell your customers what you need them to provide: It has often been my experience that if I had been advised of what was needed when calling or visiting certain businesses, the interaction may have been more efficient for myself and the customer service employee. Post contact requirements on your website's contact us page, on your snail mail information, in your emails when appropriate, in your interactive voice response system (IVR) , at customer service counters, and other contact points. If your customer has an appointment to visit your business, advise them of what they should bring in order to make the experience a positive one. Doing so prompts your customer to have all of the necessary information readily available, which in turn assists the customer contact personnel in promptly and efficiently servicing the customer. Before having minor knee surgery a couple of years ago, I was advised by a representative from the surgical facility what information and documents to bring when arriving the morning of the surgery. The interaction was very smooth and efficient upon my arrival for surgery.
Tell your customers what you need them to do: Recently I visited the post office to retrieve a certified document. I stood in the line for 10 minutes before catching a glimpse of a sign stating - "Customers picking up certified mail form a line here." The sign was located behind, to the left and above the front counter, in a recessed storage area, thereby increasing the possibility of one not seeing it when entering the post office. I would recommend placing the sign near the post office entrance and once again at the entrance to the main area where most transactions take place. This would aide the customer in going to the proper counter, thereby eliminating unnecessary time spent in the wrong line. Strategically placed signage assists your customer in going to proper locations for service. Anxiety and frustration levels tend to rise when the customer is not sure where they need to be when entering your facility. Make sure the signage is clear - During a visit a few months ago to a local car wash, I noticed the signage had changed, but the new signage was a little confusing. As I pulled forward and asked the attendant which line was the correct line for someone on my specific wash program, he bluntly stated that the information was on the sign. After reminding him that I can read, but the signage was a little confusing, he gruffly advised me that I was in fact in the correct line. In both situations, a little time taken to become the customer in regards to the sign location and language may have prevented the negative interactions. By the way, the car wash employee was the recipient of my "Secret Service Agent" stare after his remarks.
Tell your customers how to help themselves - Not all customers require the personal touch. Some prefer to do things themselves - not necessarily because they fear the level of service they may receive when interacting with customer service personnel - it's just their preference. When a customer chooses to utilize your "self service" channels, make sure that instructions are readily available. Place clear instructions on your website, in your interactive voice response system (IVR) and at your self service counters. Make it a point to regularly check your self service systems to insure smooth functionality for your customer. Once again, become the customer to make sure your instructions are clear and to insure your systems are customer friendly.
Your customer depends upon you for a great customer experience. Get them to assist you in doing so by proactively : 1. Telling them what they need to provide. 2. Telling them what they need to do. 3. Telling them how to help themselves. They will appreciate your attention to detail and your front line employees will benefit as well via increased interaction efficiency.