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What exactly is Customer service??

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Author gabbie
#1 | Posted: 9 Jul 2007 00:58 
Dear all,

My company has some good policies concerning customer service, forexample "focussing on customer needs". However, when you make an audit, these policies are just appear to be on paper. The front-line officers lacks customer service skills and knowledge. No customer service department exists in the front-line office but the claim is that customer service is inbedded in Sales and Accounts departments.

Many are times that customer care trainings and workshops have been done but apear like to have fallen on 'deaf ears'. Any suggestions on how we can change this attitude and how best we can improve the customer service?

Please, help!!!

Author ChelseaGirl
#2 | Posted: 13 Jul 2007 15:07 
There are so many components to good customer service it's hard to list them all here, but I think it can be distilled into a few major points:

Customer service is all about making the customer happy, and it's our job to do what it takes to ensure this happens. Look at it from the customer's perspective: How many times have you had a problem with something you ordered, called the company, and been subjected to some BS about their "policies"? I sure have. The bottom line is, I don't give a you-know-what about their policies; they don't interest me in the least. All I want to know is, how is this company going to satsify me? So, when customers call us with problems, we hardly ever discuss our policies, because we know the customers don't care. When you talk about that, you are making the issue about YOU, and It's not about you, it's about them. Instead, we focus on solving the problem, which can involve lots of diffferent things depending on what the problem is. We just use common sense to deal with whatever the issue is.

We are a small company, so it's easier to deal with problems since we don't have a huge staff that has to buy into the whole customer service philosophy. But I used to write for an HR magazine, so I do have some insight into how to get the message to the front-line people. A lot of the time, employees are afraid to please the customer because they think they will be violating policy. So they need to be told that they are to do whatever it takes to solve a customer problem, and they will never be penalized for doing so. Even if they do too much, it's better to err on that side than on the side of not pleasing someone enough. Employees must know that they have the authority to do this and that they do not have to check with anyone for permission.

Incentive programs also help--for instance, offering rewards for providing great service based on customer letters and phone calls. Have a system in place where customers can write in to commend someone who helped them; of course they should be able to complain also if someone didn't help them. But all the incentives in the world won't work if the foundation isn't in place. If your training isn't working maybe you need to change it; if you are currently using in-house trainers, maybe you need to bring in an outside company that specializes in this. Have you ever surveyed your employees about their attitudes to find out why they aren't getting the message? That can go a long way toward solving problems.

I don't want to ramble on, so I hope some of this helps.

Author ayaree
#3 | Posted: 18 Jul 2007 18:43 
Gabbie, I saw this post from you a few days ago, and I wasn't sure how to respond. I don't think I can add any extra value to what Chelsea already said about how to instill customer service values.

To me, what you are saying is that you are having a rough time getting other people in your organization to understand there is a problem, and you don't quite know how you are supposed to go about changing anything. And I also don't know what your position is at your company. I detect a frustration and a need for change, that much I am clear on, as well as a concern about customer service in real terms, which don't particularly find their way into audit documents.

There isn't much of a genius in me for saying this, but what do you think would happen if you thought up two people you can talk to about this, two people that you think are instigators of "change," and is there a way for you to bring this up with them without feeling like you are going out of bounds? Something tells me your boss is not one of these people. I could be wrong, I am doing some guessing.

If you think this is truly worthwhile, you should look into it, because you may be an instigator of good things. If this is not your cup of tea and you can live without being part of change, then put it out of your mind.

But you reminded me of someone. I have an employee that left our company due to a relocation (she wasn't my employee at the time) and found a different job easily; and closer to home. That same person soon inquired into opportunities to re-join us and she travels more than ten times the distance to work with us again. She wanted to be a part of an organization that goes the extra mile instead of treating people like numbers, and she had been lacking that work satisfaction elsewhere.

It sounds like you want to find this kind of thinking into your workplace. Yes? No?

Author gabbie
#4 | Posted: 20 Jul 2007 00:56 
Dear all,

Many thanks to Chelsea and Ayaree for their wonderful responce. Yes, I want to find that kind of thinking in the organization. Rewards have been given to employees but not on merit or to the deserved employees. The selection is somewhat ambigous.

Like Ayaree put it, many are times I have tried to instigate good things concerning customer service but the general attitude does not change. I have talked to my supervisors about it and they seem to be complaining about the the state of affairs.

The big task is to make everyone understand there is a problem. Everyone looks like they are resting on the laurels and cannot see the need for change. How can I instigate change, especially that Iam in a small position ? There is already poor communication from down to top as compared to top to bottom.

Author ayaree
#5 | Posted: 20 Jul 2007 17:38 
I was looking forward to hearing back from you, Gabbie, thanks for writing. I think anyone who talks about this with you should want to make sure it remains a secret where you work. So I won't even ask what type of industry or even which country we are talking about.

What I am understanding from you is that you are not a person that can exercise some influence at your company. What troubles me is that there are supervisors who don't take your step one step further. That's what you need in leaders. Whether the desired change happens or not, you need someone who will bring you to the next step, whether it's a new outlook, acceptance, workarounds, patience, whatever, and I don't hear that from you, I am hearing a struggle (in you and in lots of other people).

I recognize that you may feel out of place on the topic of creating change; there are boundaries and do's and don'ts. You may even wonder whether you would be dismissed from the company if you opened your mouth too much, and I don't think finding a different job needs to be an option at this point. You've got a challenge, and you want to figure it out. And a post I read from you somewhere else about a procedure manual gave me insight into some talent you have at assessing uncharted territory and creating order. Gabbie, I'm a bit of a politician when I say that you can learn something from every corner of a company, it's the preachy side of me. But I have learned to see how this outlook works. I may not want to be the person that is mopping a floor and I don't know what I could learn from that task, but I know that without the person that did that mopping, I would be working at a place I was less proud of. Therefore, that person means something to me; that person does their part in making my company a successful place, and that person deserves to be spoken to and listened to. When people don't look at the various roles in a company this way, they are missing out on what teamwork and pride are all about, from my perspective, and have not really "grown" in the workforce either, and certainly not in leadership. Since you are examining issues in communication, employee relations and customer service, I think you have to retreat from referring to your position as a "small position." You may not have instant power, but you have a forward vision. When you are feeling without confidence, it might help to remember that when looking at your valuable ideas and sharing them. You are identifying a need for change with a forward vision, which is a leadership quality.

I didn't gain a sense from you that there are many others that think the way you do and that they would be able to participate in constructive discussions about these problems. Something to be aware of (and I am still working on this) is that there will always be a lot of work involved when dealing with differences in people. But there are ways of taking the differences and creating a good result with them. You have to change your speaking tone in different situations, also your vocabulary, your body language, even your breathing when communicating with different people. I think of it as putting myself at different places on an emotional thermometer, and that is draining work. But I can think of times that I have influenced the way a conversation was going by adjusting where I was on the thermometer for the sake of the goal I wanted to be understood out of my mouth. And I saved myself time in the process, by not having to repeat my efforts. This is "being myself," but in many ways. There might be more selves inside you that you can "call up" when needed and other selves to compartmentalize when needed. (I have selves that require compartmentalization, such as "verbalized frustration.")

To get back to others that think like you, if there are others, what do you think would happen if you and likeminded others pooled together small amounts of money toward refreshments and small snacks and invited two people to a meeting with you to hear your thoughts? Would that be possible? Are you allowed to invite people to meetings? Would you be listened to?

What about Human Resources and Personnel, are there people that concentrate on employee relations in your company, what has been the outcome of talking with them, if they exist?

I think the ingredients needed here are people that you can identify that need to hear a presentation; a presentation of facts; suggested solutions--because if you are like doctors that have identified a disease, rightly or wrongly, you will be expected to have a cure or treatment ; some diplomacy; impressive demeanor; and statements that indicate clearly that you are interested in continuously improving what you do together as a company.

Gabbie, what I tried to dissect above is a plan for teamwork. If there is nothing that comes out of a strategy for teamwork after a few intelligent attempts, then that is the time that you have to consider where you need to be earning a living next. Healthy companies need teamwork and they need leaders that embrace it. If I am guessing right, I would try what you want to do with these guys for a while, and see where it goes, because it could mean good changes for you personally in the future. If it doesn't work (realizing you are not the sum of perfection yourself), then present your skill at continuous improvement and service excellence to a company that is looking for you.

Author gabbie
#6 | Posted: 23 Jul 2007 01:19 
Huge thanks Ayaree, for your solid advice.

I will identify those that would appreciate my reasoning and try to table the matter down with one of the managers especially one who is likely to understand the concept and follow it up.

I do understand again that organizational change may be the immediate solution to such "behaviours". The big challenge still remains of managing culture change of a public organizational who was once a monopoly in the provision of service.


Author ayaree
#7 | Posted: 25 Jul 2007 19:14 
Happy to see this sign from you about driving to the next step, and I loved hearing back from you. I'm going to keep tuning in whenever I can.

Author patilint
#8 | Posted: 7 Aug 2007 08:01 
Unfortunately, there are some companies that just never get it...and I think that the one I work for is one of them. There are many people here that have quite a long history with the company and have seen growth, change, politics, good associates come and go.
I get the feeling that with all the change - that the new supervisors and managers would rely heavily on the associates that have been with the company for guidance, customer information, knowledge etc. They should be respected and involved with changes and new implementations. However, from my place in the company, I know for a fact that this is not happening and its very distressing.
Its one of the reasons that I am not unhappy with my decision to retire (although I would work from my new home in Arizona if they let me). I don't want to retire from business yet and I want to stay active and keep my brain working for a long time.
I think management sometimes thinks they know best ( and they might- but listen and respect the knowledge that long term associates have from day to day handling of the customers and thier problems.

Sorry- don't mean to be on a soapbox....or pessimistic but...

It gets frustrating to try over and over to change things when it falls on deaf ears or management does not jump on board. Maybe the answer is to find a place that will...although not sure where that is...

Author ayaree
#9 | Posted: 7 Aug 2007 20:37 
Pati, I'm sorry that the new management you mentioned a few months ago have turned out to be a disappointment. I would think you have held dear the successes of the company you work for and your part in those successes. I can believe you when you say there is something distressing about the situation.

I gather you're moving to a place where your grandchildren live, and that sounds like a rewarding step. I'm of course some number of years younger than you and don't have any children, but I can see why this relocation would be important. What you also don't want to let go of is involvement in business ("using your mind"). I don't think being around grandchildren will starve the mind--ha ha.

I hope when you get to that new place you will tap in to the possibilities of that community, so that you can participate in business activity. You might also have something to teach in that new context.

Author nancymut
#10 | Posted: 12 Aug 2007 13:45 
Customer Service is all about meeting and exceeding customer expectations.
Once you have exceeded what the customer expects of you, then you have provided a good service and its doesnt matter what it is you do, right from greeting them politely, to offering them a glass of water, to providing them extras to the service/product they purchase or buy from you, after sales service etc.
The moment of truth, ie, any point at which the customer comes into contact with your organisation should be a positive one.
In otherwords, Customer Service is all about going the extra mile for your customer, doesnt matter what you do.

Author nancymut
#11 | Posted: 12 Aug 2007 13:54 
Sorry, I missed to contribute on the part on how best to change the attitude of your Frontline staff.
From experience, I have learnt one thing and that is, that not everybody can work in a customer service job description, however much training is done....
unless they have the right attitude which comes to my point, its very important that the people we hire to work in a customer service related field should have the right attitude straight on.
"Hire the attitude and train the skills" is what I go for because its much easier to train someone a skill than it is to train them to change their mindset or attitude.
Its advisable that when selecting staff to work for customer care, you get-in the right people with the right attitude then train them the skills.

Author patilint
#12 | Posted: 13 Aug 2007 06:46 
In response to Nancymut - I believe we are talking about the attitude of the upper management and not the front line CS reps. We all agree that the front line must have the correct attitude...

I know my concern is having upper management getting on board and being responsible to support and encourage the changes and attitudes we need to make it sucessful. This is what is so hard about CS....when you have upper management expecting world class CS but not really supporting and leading by example....


Author lisaemc2
#13 | Posted: 13 Aug 2007 13:20 
My thought is that Customer Service is a thing of the past. I have more than 2 decades worth of MAJOR business uphill development. Every job, I was routinely let go because of my inability to kiss ass.
Gypsy's, complete & utter disarray, I came in & took over. Now they have 2 stores.
Second Story cafe', losing money & not a very popular place. Within 6 months I was promoted to Asst. Manager. In the 6 months of my authority the Cafe' was able to bring in it's first 12% profit. Turnover was nil & customer satisfaction was at an all time high. I organised a Writer's Night that was keenly successful. I conceived, designed & executed a new Menu Board. I never trusted the new Manager that came in w/o anyone realizing the old MGT was out. Keeping a keen eye on the buisness I made the powers that were aware of what I thought was embezzlement. I was routinely fired. Altho, they said it was simply a layoff. Within the week, they discovered I was right & the perpetrator was arrested. I was not offered my job again. When I was "fired" the entire staff on duty walked off with me. Premonitions of the fact that it's struggling to this day.
I have many experiences like this. Just ask me.

Author nancymut
#14 | Posted: 14 Aug 2007 04:09 
Hi All,

I agree with Patilint...

Its important for top management to have the right attitude and lead by example but in most companies, the top management believes that Customer Service is only for the 'customer service people" and do not realise that Customer Service starts right from the top to the bottom and every member of the company/organsation is liable to provide good customer service, both to internal and external customers.

What I know for sure is that when the internal customers are not given 'good customer care", it filters to the outside, the external customers will inturn get a bad service.

Also a positive moment of truth should be experienced by the customer at whatever level the customer comes into contact with the organisation, be it when talking to the boss on the top most floor or asking the tea girl for a glass of water.

Author mwachirake
#15 | Posted: 19 Sep 2007 02:07 
Hi good people

I have read all the response to "what exactly is customer service" and have learnt a lot. Infact i have made 2 pages notes on customer service.
I think customer service is a problem in many companies in my country. Am an administrative assistant/receptionist and all the visitors and clients have to pass at the reception .I have been forced several times to do other peoples work just to ensure that all clients leave the company smiling,happy and satisfied.It really breaks my heart to see a visitor leaving the office angry.I work in one of our office branches.There was a time the company was running a promotion and when the winners came to claim their prizes i realized that they were being taken round and round by our brand executives who had organized the promotion. It reached a point where i decided to handle the issue.I had to apologize to all the winners and followed the matter which was being handled at the head office.It was really hard to follow it up.Every time i called the head office there was either no response or promises that the hampers would be sent.Finally i had to write a complain email to the bosses after a week of following up.I got the hampers the next day and used my money to mail the hampers to the winners because most of them were from far and they had already wasted money. I thought that it was only fair to call them up and mail prizes. Some people were not happy and told me that i should have followed the right channel (which i had) instead of writing to the brand manager.Despite all the bad things people said deep down inside i was happy because i had managed to win back the trust of our clients.Some even called to thank me.Unfortunately it still happens.Whenever we run a promotion or we have competitions i feel like going on leave. Talking to my immediate boss about has bore no fruit.Instead i have been told to do my work.Is it because am a receptionist?
I would like to train in customer service.Could somebody plse advice on institutions where i can do that.

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