It is easy to see the important role your employees play in customer service. They are the first point of contact with your customers, and the way they handle these contacts, positive or negative, is crucial.
According to American Express, 91% of customers judge whether or not to shop with a business based on the company’s customer service. Since good service does not happen automatically, we need to be certain our employees understand their role and are prepared to be a part of your customer program. Here are some thoughts on how to involve your employees.
How well prepared are your employees to serve your customers? Employees need to be trained in effective techniques to better recognize customer needs and be prepared to deliver them.
One of the most important skills is listening. Customers will be more likely to believe you care about their concerns if you take the time to listen.
Basic skills like patience, personalizing responses (people like to know the business knows who they are), phone etiquette, product knowledge, clear communications, empathy, and remaining positive should be stressed in the training process.
Forbes Magazine cites Disney as a prime example the importance of training. All employees are trained when they are hired, not just in their jobs, but also in Traditions Training. Here, they learn the basics of the Disney focus on the customer/guest.
Take the time to do the job right
Good service is not a rush job.
We worked with an organization that prioritized getting through customer calls as quickly as possible. Employees who spent what was considered to be too much time on calls were taken to task.
Do I need to tell you how their service was viewed by their customers? Spending the extra time shows you care and want to understand the problem. It will increase your likeliness of being able to identify and resolve their concerns.
Share customer feedback with your employees and use it to improve the work system.
Unless employees get all the information from customers, they can not effectively deal with any issues.
Some organizations use customer service as a club to beat employees with customer complaints. However, most complaints show weaknesses in the work system rather than individual employee failures.
For example, what if customers have problems with missing items from orders? As we mentioned last time, this information should be shared with employees and studied to determine the nature of the problem. Does it happen more on certain days or shifts? Is the problem caused by backlogs in order processing? Could it result from a problem caused by suppliers? Involving employees to ask the “Why did this happen?” question can help identify the root causes of the problem and find effective solutions.
Don’t just meet customer needs, exceed them
It is certainly important to meet the needs of our customers. If we don’t, our competitors will. However, meeting their needs is not sufficient. If we only meet their needs, customers will not build any loyalty. They can easily be lured away
Instead, we need to exceed basic needs and expectations. We need to listen to our customers’ concerns and find ways to go above and beyond them. This is easier to accomplish if your employees have been trained in effective service and empowered to determine the best ways to help customers.
We have discussed a number of factors in effective service in these blogs, but involving employees in the process also requires they be empowered. By empowering employees to deal with concerns on their own, you can accomplish significant improvements in customer satisfaction.
Forbes magazine notes, “The best thing an organization can do is teach its employees to deal with situations, both easy and difficult. Give them the tools to recognize guest behaviors and situations and to respond appropriately and effectively.”
This is the basis of the Gold Standard customer satisfaction process at Ritz Carlton Hotels. One of the unique features of their process is each employee is empowered to spend up to $2,000 to resolve any customer concern. Whether it’s the manager or the housekeeper, the goal is immediate resolution of customer issues.
Would you trust your employees enough to empower them in this way? (If not, why?) Not only is that a great way to show your employees you trust them to make good decisions, the result has been some of the best customer satisfaction ratings in the industry.
Recognize great performance and celebrate successes.
Ritz-Catlton employees are recognized for providing exemplary customer service. Ryan Estes reports, “Every day, employees of every department in every Ritz-Carlton hotel around the world gather for a 15-minute staff meeting that includes the sharing of “wow stories.” These are examples of employee heroics that go above and beyond conventional customer service.”
Organizations and teams sometimes forget to celebrate. Hard work and great effort deserves recognition, and the feedback will encourage everyone the next time.
There are many good (and bad) customer service stories on line, and you no doubt have many examples of your own. Bear in mind that your employees are the key to excellent customer service. Involve them in the process to maximize the benefit.