I have been thinking about what makes a really great Customer Service experience and I have narrowed it down to about 7 things that make or break Excellent Customer Service Personnel.
This list is based on my own observations, travels and experiences. When I have good or bad encounters, I try to write down what I liked or disliked. I use those notes to write about what I have observed.
If you are a responsible for the Customer Service in your organization, you might get into the habit of taking notes wherever you go. You can then use them to train your personnel, or make changes to your own company mission statement or vision.
You might even send your Customer Service representatives to places that have exceptionally good or bad service so that they might see for themselves and understand what the difference is between good and GREAT!
So here is a list of 7 things that you might want to take a look at if you are interested in developing better Customer Service.
1. Are your personnel friendly?
I don’t mean the “fake” friendly or the “work” friendly, I mean genuinely friendly. You could start by asking yourself “Would I want to spend time with them if they were not team members or employees?”
Does their personality match the position in which they are working? There are certain things to look for like do they smile with their eyes when greeting someone? Is their demeanor on the phone the same as it is in person? Are they frequently surrounded by the smiling faces of customers and co-workers? Do they receive unsolicited compliments, cards and letters thanking them for their service?
Would they be the first one to eat if you were stranded on a desert island? If you answered yes to that question, why are they working in your Customer Service Department?
Do you use personality profiles in your employment screening process? You might want to consider implementing a personality profile test so that you don’t end up with a “thinker” type personality in a “touchy-feely” type position. You might want to have everyone take one now to see if there are some obvious mismatches.
2. Do they have excellent communications skills?
If not, what are you doing to improve it? Are you offering classes, lunch and learn, or reimbursement for tuition at a local college?
If English is their second language, are you encouraging them to expand their skills by stimulating their pay package with incentives? (I used stimulating on purpose. Who wouldn’t want a stimulating pay package?)
And how about speaking skills? Why not pay for a membership in Toastmasters? Better yet, start a Toastmasters club at work. What better way to grow and develop speaking skills!
3. Do they go out of the way to help a Customer?
Let me give you an example. I was in a hotel conducting a seminar, and was expecting a fax. I was walking down the hallway in the direction I thought I should be going, when I passed one of the hotel employees pushing a cart loaded with boxes.
He noticed my somewhat puzzled look, and stopped what he was doing. He asked me how he might help and then escorted me to the correct office, and even looked for the fax.
That is genuine friendliness, concern and training all rolled into one. Now some of you are saying, “Oh sure, big fancy hotel” blah, blah, blah. Be quiet Schleprock.
It was not a big fancy hotel at all, I wasn’t even a guest, and he had no idea who I was or what I was doing there. I just happened to be one person riding the same merry-go-round on the same day as him. Do your personnel stop what they are doing to help the Customer?
And do they understand why they do it?
4. Do they listen completely and without judgment and reservation?
Have they been trained in Assertiveness skills? Dynamic Listening? Memory?
Do they let the Customer finish or do they interrupt? There is a reason we are born with one mouth and two ears. We cannot provide a service, sell a product, be good stewards of our company and move forward with Company Goals or anything else if we are not listening to what the Customer wants and needs.
And it is a skill that is trainable. You cannot train intelligence or personality. You can train someone to listen.
5. Do they respond to Customers requests in a timely fashion?
Do they acknowledge that the Customers time is more important than their own? Anytime you save a Customer time or money, you win them over. Let me give you an example.
In my days as a service advisor, I had a Customer come in that I promised I would personally take care of her situation. I told her I would arrange for a courtesy shuttle for her to be brought back to the dealership when her vehicle was ready. I got everything 99% right. It was the 1% that killed her experience. I made sure the vehicle was completed, the paperwork ready, got the shuttle to pick her up, I was home free right!
When she arrived, her vehicle was still being washed. It was a particularly busy day and it took an additional 15-20 minutes for her vehicle to be brought up.
It may not sound like a big deal, however, 15-20 minutes to a person who has responsibilities to other people like children at school, parents who need medications at home or people who have tight schedules, 15-20 minutes turns into 30 minutes lost that turns into hours at the end of the day.
She let me know that her time was valuable and if I sent the shuttle to pick her up, her car had better be ready. Not almost ready.
I never forgot the lesson “Customer time is more important than mine.”
6. Do they follow up on Customer requests without prompting?
Without an additional phone call or reminder?
We all forget things from time to time. With Customers however, you might want to write everything down. I am at an age that if I don’t write it down it does not get done.
When I am dealing with a Customers concern, everything is written. I have a much better chance of completing the list of tasks if I have taken the time to document it.
When I follow up without the Customer calling me back it makes them feel like they received value and personal service.
If they have to call you back, they feel like they are being ignored or worse, ripped off.
7. Do you have goals?
Are they published for all to see? Are they updated to reflect changing circumstances in your business?
When is the last time you reviewed the “Big Picture?” Do you involve the personnel in developing those goals? Are they helpers in the decision or just “following orders?”
Without clear measurable goals it’s hard to have everyone on the same “sheet of music.”
And when you hit those goals, do you have a big “WOOHOO” for all involved? Have a Party, lunch, bonus award, whatever it takes to keep the people focused on the vision and working towards the same end.
There you go. A good list to help you measure and fine tune your Customer Service Department.
Now can someone help me find the right merry-go-round?
About the Author
Leonard Buchholz leads seminars in Customer Service, Attitude and Skills and Management. He also provides coaching and consulting in Customer Service.