Most customer service policies will talk about courtesy of contact and the maximum number of times the telephone can be allowed to ring before picking up, but that isn’t what this post is about. We’ve all had conversations with people we buy things from and we know when their care goes all the way through their systems – or not, as the case may be. How do we know? It doesn’t matter if you are a Finance department, or a factory production line, the following will still apply:
Is there an answer for every issue?
- I had an experience recently where it was clear that the customer service representative had a list of things they knew how to deal with and those they didn’t. It’s worth walking through the process in theory, asking yourself what could go wrong for your customers, so that you and your people know how to handle it in the most effective way, quickly and at minimum cost. Remember to build in a protocol for handling problems you haven’t thought of – like the representative that spoke to me, a short delay while they find out the best answer for you is invariably acceptable if the customer agrees that the issue is a bit unusual.
- The whole team has to take collective responsibility for their outputs. The customer doesn’t care if delivery is shared or not, so you can’t either. This means you may have to pass feedback up the line and help improve processes you don’t own, which can ruffle some feathers, so try to do it nicely!
- You can build up from the initial list of ideas you had by journey mapping – using a specific example of a customer experience to develop an appropriate response.
Can you deliver reliably in a sensible timescale (or faster)?
- Can you give an accurate prediction of when people will get what they want? People don’t like to be kept waiting. They don’t mind it taking as long as is needed for a good quality product, but need to know when they will get it, so that they can plan around it.
- How long do you really need anyway? Whilst it’s sensible to allow a little leeway, too much will reduce your value to your customers and their esteem for you will fall accordingly. Not every situation is helped by early delivery, but none are hindered.
- It’s important to communicate delays as soon as possible. This manages your customer’s expectations and makes it clear you still control the situation – at least, until you’ve moved the deadline more than a couple of times.
Do you ask them what they think of your service?
- If you think your service or product should be important to them, you need to know what they do with it. Seeing the service through your customer’s eyes will help pinpoint further improvements. Understanding their operation almost as much as your own can lead to all sorts of mutual benefit.
- You can get used to doing things in a certain way and not realise that your customer has new choices and so is comparing you to new things. Complaints are food for your continuous improvement and must be used for that purpose. Appreciate the opportunity to improve.
Do you ask them how your great service helped them?
- The silent majority need to be less silent about how great you are. Just by asking them, you can encourage them to praise (or berate) your service. Many aspects of life these days encourage ratings with good reason.
- Praise grows your team’s spirit – who doesn’t like it? It has to be worth asking a question to see if you can get some!
- The nature of that praise can often also offer useful insights into the customer’s operation and how you fit into it
Do you take corrective action when given negative feedback?
- Did I say that complaints are food for your continuous improvement? Well, it is!
- You’ll very often find that a complaint exposes something that leads to greater benefits all round when it’s fixed
- One of the cheapest and most effective forms of staff development is to fix things that aren’t right. It means they get a clearer understanding of what they are trying to achieve and this can help the whole team to do better in the future.