Customer service. It’s the benchmark that every business knows it should be measuring. It’s the topic that should be featured in every team meeting. It’s the one differentiator that every manager believes they have under control. Yet it is still difficult to measure the ROI of good customer service – there is no clear metric to define it – and therefore, many businesses are reluctant to allocate a fair whack of their budget to it.
It’s also the one thing that very few businesses do exceptionally well. And that is the key right there – exceptionally. It is no longer good enough to have great customer service. If businesses are to succeed and rise above the competitors in 2017, your customer service must be EXCEPTIONAL.
Customer service is no longer a ‘department’ it is an attitude; an attitude and behaviour that should be embraced by the whole team from the Managing Director to the cleaner. And customer service starts from within. If the management team does not treat its own team with courtesy, respect and professionalism, it is difficult for the team to relate to the importance and value of customer service.
So, other than talk about the basics such as eye-contact, pleasant smile, quick response rate and professional delivery (of service or product), how do you really ensure the customer service message is getting through to your team?
A customer service clinic.
A totally focussed, in-depth look at how your customer service measures up. This could be a half day, a full day or even a workshop. There are many options but our recipe for running a successful customer service clinic is outlined below.
- Make it special – different location, different speaker, different reward/incentive scheme.
- Be prepared. You will need to conduct a survey both in-house and with your customers to obtain relevant and current data about the true picture of your customer service. You cannot improve effectively on what you don’t really know. Accurate data is imperative.
- Use specialist knowledge (we can help with this!) Don’t assume that researching customer service and using an outdated manual will do the job. Customers expect more than the smile and polite interaction that the ‘How To Relate To Your Customers’ manuals of the 1990s preached about. Customers of 2017 want a relationship, they want to feel special and valued and they will not hesitate to move their loyalty elsewhere if they feel this is not forthcoming.
- Make it relevant – to every person attending. Every member of the team needs to understand the effect they can have on a potential or existing customer. Once again, understanding the importance that customer service has on your customers is something that cannot be taught or emphasised in handouts or emails – it is part of the team culture, it is a feeling, an attitude and a deep-seated part of an individual’s inherent makeup. You will not necessarily get a surly, shy or introverted 19-year-old to embrace the idea of excellent customer service by sitting them in front of a PowerPoint presentation. But they may start to ‘feel’ your goals’ intentions if you create a warm, buzzing, positive workshop and carry that attitude through to the workplace.
- Advertise the training as an upskilling session, be upbeat, positive, friendly, inspiring; all the things you want your team to be. Make a point of praising the team and using in-house examples of great customer service that you have experienced within your own business.
- Focus on the key pillars of great customer service:
- warmth and building a rapport,
- ability to really listen,
- knowledge of product,
- ability to read customers,
- a calm demeanour, and
- a willingness to go the extra mile.
It is these factors that will set your team apart from the rest.
- Develop a loyalty programme as a team so that there is ownership and, therefore, a more personal investment in recommending and promoting it.
When creating a loyalty programme consider three important aspects:
- Find a desirable outcome. Customers won’t commit to a programme if the reward isn’t worthwhile. Additional access or discounts for your product/service may be viable but in many cases, freebies work best.
- Find an action the customers will regularly commit to. Dropbox found that customers were very willing to refer other users for additional space. For some businesses, the initial purchase of the product or service could be the beginning of an accumulation of points or rewards.
- Make sure the programme aligns with your business. Tesco has its loyalty programme spot on. Accumulated points can be used for a range of items or rewards and they have periods where they double or triple the value of the vouchers used. I’m guilty of shopping at Tesco because they have a great reward programme and I don’t like Tesco! Waitrose don’t have a loyalty programme so I shop there begrudgingly because of this. Most businesses will not be launching a rewards programme quite on this scale but do consider the value of your loyalty programme in relation to YOUR business.
Back to our customer service clinic…..
- Make it active. Your customer service clinic should not be a lecture or a one-way stream of information. Allow the team to discuss their own experiences and in doing so, identify any barriers some may have to offering excellent customer service. If it is blatantly apparent that no amount of training will mean Bob on the front desk might smile at his customers, put him in a different role/location. Role play is an excellent tool for demonstrating how to handle specific incidents like a complaining customer, and whilst some may moan or be reluctant to participate, if you make it fun (or use the experts for the training session) it can be a very revealing and often ‘penny-dropping’ powerful learning tool.
- Allow for follow up training or sessions/questions. This may be a week or month later. It is important to reinforce the important points and to make it clear that customer service excellence is well and truly on your agenda.
- Ensure the team take responsibility in some way. Often if several of the team are on-board then they can influence the others to act the same way. It is quite hard to be a raincloud in a building full of rainbows so don’t underestimate the influence of peer pressure.
How you promote and advertise your customer service clinic is key to its overall success. If you drop it in a busy month in a boring room with dull lighting and a monotone delivery of information don’t expect your team to respond with enthusiasm.
The real key to creating customer service excellence lies in your hands. BE the excellent role model, ignite interest in the topic within your team and make it special. Special is how your customers want to feel. And it starts with you.