Errol goes back to basics by taking a closer look at the principles of customer service.
Over the years that I’ve spent in and around the customer service industry, lots of changes have occurred. Methods of interacting with the customer.
The variety of ways customers interact with companies. Monitoring and measuring employee performance. Metrics and more metrics. This methodology vs that methodology.
These changes have often helped in creating a better service experience for the customer.
It seems that some of these changes however, make it difficult for some people to understand what they mean and how they impact customer service. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for change – where would we be if everything stayed the same?
The one thing that I’ve learned is that customer service is not rocket science. There’s a question that keeps running around in this analytical brain of mine – What would we rely on to provide great customer service if these changes were non-existent? The answer that I get is – We would rely upon basic human interaction principles. Let’s turn all of the tools off for a minute while we look at a few of these principles.
Principle of Respect
Every person by the fact that she or he is a human being deserves a measure of respect. In my opinion, the same holds true regarding customers. Every customer deserves a measure of respect, even when their actions are somewhat callous and uncaring, it’s still possible to show basic respect during these encounters. It’s been my experience that when one remains respectful during customer interactions, there’s usually a positive outcome to the interaction.
How many of you have received a call back or return visit from a customer that was blatantly disrespectful to apologize for their actions? This would not be possible without a conscious decision to always give every customer a measure of respect.
On another note, some companies give priority based upon customer size or revenue. While it’s smart to know how much a customer contributes to the bottom line, be careful not to make your smaller customer feel unimportant. Treat all customers with respect – make sure they know how important they are to your organization’s success. Employees should treat each other with respect across the organization. One’s position or status does not exempt one from this principle. Internal respect becomes respect shown to the customer. Make sure this principle is very apparent within your organization as the failure to do so will most certainly impact customer service.
Principle of Service
It seems to me that the main goal of any organization providing a product or service is to be of service to those that call, visit – in person or via web or are visited by a representative of that organization. Service is defined as “an act of helpful activity; help; aid”. How can those of us in the customer service industry be more helpful to those that we serve? Can we take the time to really help our customers or are we more concerned with being measured while helping the customer? Are our actions really “helpful activities” or are we providing just enough help to satisfy the customer for the short-term because our metric says it’s time to end the interaction? Customers expect to be serviced in a timely manner, with a certain measure of respect by someone who is interested in doing what’s best for the customer. Organization leaders are responsible for developing a culture whose main purpose is to properly service the customer.
Principle of Integrity
I think that I’m safe in saying that most organizations seek to operate with a high level of integrity. Integrity is defined as “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.” This principle requires an organization to ask itself “Are we doing what’s right for our customers.” “If we follow through with this decision, what will the impact be to our customers?” “If we chose to ignore what we know about this situation, what is the long-term impact to our company’s reputation with our customers?
This principle requires one to be above-board at all times with customers. It is imperative that customers feel that they can trust your organization. Today’s customer can create a whirlwind of negativity via the social media channel. Numerous examples exist where an organization was not forthcoming with information that impacted the customer – in some cases the situation was life threatening! Once again, leaders are responsible for setting the tone here.
Principle of Pride in Workmanship
One’s satisfaction in providing the best possible service to a customer is a form of pride in workmanship. It’s no secret that a lot of front line people feel they’re unable to provide the best experience due to time constraints imposed by organizational metrics. It’s important to be able to go the extra mile in servicing the customer without the fear of negative repercussions. This principle in action creates both customer and employee satisfaction. Customers benefit greatly when employees take the time to do what’s necessary to provide a customer service experience that fully satisfies their reason for contacting the company.
Most employees feel good about their ability to utilize their skills to fully meet a customer’s needs, especially when it involves resolving an issue that could mean the difference between losing or retaining a customer. When given the proper time to service a customer, it’s my belief that most employees will do what’s necessary to make sure the customer is satisfied at the end of the interaction.
Most people like to feel good about the level of service they provide – it’s just something about knowing that your actions resulted in a positive outcome for another person. Set your metrics to afford your service providers enough time to properly service the customer. If it’s possible, measure how many of your customer interactions are the result of their not being serviced properly the first time.
There’s one thing that I’ve noticed about principles – they don’t change. Principles should guide how you service your customer. Principles should determine how you treat your employees. Principles should be the benchmark for running your organization. Set your principles first before setting your metrics. Your customers and employees will love you for that! Okay now turn all of your tools back on!
About the Author
Errol Allen has over 25 years of experience in the customer service industry including 13 years in a management role. Having held positions as an Internal Customer Service Consultant, Call Center Quality Manager and Operations Analyst, Errol understands the need for a “systems” orientation to providing excellent customer service.