A simple but effective way of focusing on three of the most important areas of customer service management.
When looking at a Customer Service organization, it’s hard sometimes to sort through all of the dynamics involved to get down to the areas you can work with to get the best results in the shortest amount of time.
One way to narrow the choices down is to work with the 3 P’s:
Perception, Procedure and Personnel.
It’s important to make sure you are working with Trends in an organization, not one time incidents. One time incidents are generally the result of long term deficiencies somewhere in the Organization. They bubble to the surface after being cooked for awhile by a Perception, a Procedure or a Personnel issue. They are usually dramatic, are remembered forever and brought up at parties and company get togethers. What you are looking for is a Trend. A series of one time events becomes a Trend.
You can treat Trends. It’s difficult to treat a one time event.
Think of it this way. If you went to your doctor and told him that you had a burning sensation in your chest one day last week, and it never came back, lasted only 10 minutes, and had never happened before in your life, his/her chances of finding the root cause are very slim. He/She would recommend a battery of tests, interview you in depth as to foods eaten, liquid intake, family history and generally probe and poke until there was a series of symptoms or test results that would lead the Doc in the right direction. If those were not present, he/she would have a tough time making a recommendation other than “come back in if it reoccurs.”
However, if you had the same burning sensation for 4 days in a row, you noticed it occurs right after you eat chicken on a stick with extra sauce, lasts for 45 minutes and had been repeating with more and more frequency, your doctor would have something to go on. He/she would be able to focus on the symptoms you described and recommend a correction in your diet, liquid intake or even a medication to treat the condition. Customer Service Management and Diagnosis is just like that.
So now that we have established that one timers and Trends are different and require different methods, let’s look at what we can address.
Perceptions are wispy, nebulous and sometimes hard to get pinned down. It’s because it is a “personal experience” with your store, office, department, personnel, receptionist, cashier, advisor, counter person, etc… And it’s influenced by the weather, the Customer’s spouse, children, work, how long the line is, did you have it in stock, where the Customer had to park, how much time they had on their lunch break, etc… Are you getting the picture here?
There are so many factors that go into Perception.
This is where having a large sample of in house personal observations, returned surveys, personal interviews, interactions with Customers and company Personnel will guide you in the direction of what needs to be addressed in changing the Perception. And your source material and results needs to be over a period of time so that all of the factors are “evened out” so to speak.
Once you have a firm handle on the Perceptions your Customers are experiencing you can decide a course to correct it. It could be a simple fix, like adding Wi-Fi to your store so Customers could surf while waiting, or adding one additional cashier during peak times, or having a clean store front. If it is not an obvious item you can change, you may need to look elsewhere.
It may be that a Procedure is leading to negative Perception. Maybe the company handbook is out of date and does not reflect your changing market. Maybe 10 years ago your Customer base was made up of 30 something 2 income families. Now, due to demographics, economy and changing styles you have a new set of Customers who are 20 something and unmarried with one income.
Would your Procedures and Training reflect what you did 10 years ago or would you want to adapt them for the Customers you serve today?
That’s the trick with Perception. It’s a moving target.
And to stay current and in sync with your Customer base you have to constantly remember to change and update your Procedures and Training to match those whom you serve.
Failure to Train will lead to Customer Failure.
Which brings us to the last of the big 3 P’s, Personnel.
Hire Friendly, Hire Trainability, Hire Competency.
Personnel issues are the most difficult to address because we are all human. I learned a valuable lesson from a technician that I worked with once upon a time. He had run his own shop when I hired him, and I had frequent conversations with him on the philosophy and management of employees. He told me one time that he never had a problem with letting someone go. I was at the point in my career where I was a little altruistic in mymanagement style, and believed everyone could be brought around with Training and motivation. Tom had a little different take on the subject. He said to me “I have never hesitated in letting someone go if I thought they needed to go. If I have to even think about that decision, they have already made it for themselves.” And he was right.
If that person is not the right person in the right position, something has got to change. And although I still am a little altruistic and would counsel with that employee and see if additional Training would help, the motivation to do well would still need to come from that employee. If you hire with clear standards and competencies in place, you only have to look for the friendliest people. And here too is a judgment call. Everybody is on their best behavior in an interview.
You can have a feel for a person; however, it’s better to test. And most tests are not that expensive compared over the long run to saved time and energy in finding the right person.
Making Personnel changes for the sake of making change will demoralize an organization and make everyone feel uneasy. If you can, move Personnel to a position that is a better fit for their personality or the level of Training they are currently at. Make sure hiring policies are in place so that you are matching the right person for the position.
Use the 3 P’s to start breaking down the areas you want to look at in your organization. They will help you focus on the items that have the most potential for generating the highest return on time, energy and investment of you and your companies resources.
It’s a great place to start!
About the Author
Leonard Buchholz is a Certified Trainer, Speaker and Author. Seminars include subjects like Customer Service, Management and Communications.