My co-worker, Monica Postell, wrote a blog post a few months ago called 5 Tips to Improve Service for Your Customers. I love that post for a number of reasons, one being the fact that it features our cultural change hero, the HEART ModelTM. In the spirit of continuously improving customer service, here are another five tips to add to your toolbox:
Hire good people.
Invest in customer service training for all employees.
Empower employees/re-evaluate processes.
Tie customer feedback to your monitoring form
Boost the morale of your employees.
One thing I can tell you from years in the customer service training trenches is that you can't train someone who isn't smart enough or motivated enough to learn your systems and processes. And although we do a darn good job of inspiring people to serve others, there are people who just won't go there-people who shouldn't have been hired in the first place. You will spend less money if you invest more in hiring the right person to begin with. For tips on doing just that, check out Peter Carbonara's article, "Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill," in Fast Company.
When the decision is made to improve customer service, who gets trained? The customer-facing employees. That's the best place to start and that's where the biggest emphasis should lie. But if you really want to provide stellar customer service, you need to provide train all of your employees so that they understand where the organization is heading, who their internal customers are, and how working together makes a difference to the eternal customer-the one who provides their paycheck. Why? If your front-line reps need to provide customers with information and they can't get it in a timely manner, or if departmental processes are working at cross-purposes, they can't satisfy the customer, even if they want to. Which brings me to…
I'm sure you all know about the Ritz-Carlton's famous policy which allows their empowered employees to commit up to $2,000 of the hotel's funds to instantly resolve a guest's problem if needed. Yes, it's important to empower employees to resolve customer issues within certain guidelines and if you haven't thought about how you can do that, you should. But how about empowering your employees to come up with better processes for serving customers?
Inefficient processes are bad for customers, frustrating for employees, and costly for the company. When we do customer service training, we keep a flip chart (or two or three) in the training room and we jot down all the process improvements that reps mention-unsolicited-while they're learning skills for providing better service. We present these at the end of the training to the manager. We're often shocked to see how surprised the manager is by the great ideas their employees came up with. Why wait for Team Impact to sweep in? Just ask your employees.
Often, determining the voice of the customer falls under the auspices of the marketing department. In many companies, this department is a far reach from the QA department in the call center or support center-the department that determines whether the front line employees are doing a good job in serving the customer. To be sure that your service is in alignment with customer's wants and needs, be sure that what is monitored ties directly to what the customer wants. This may seem obvious but we frequently are called to help companies improve their monitoring process and the people who have been creating monitoring forms for years have never seen customer feecback.
There's a difference between morale and motivation. When morale is high, employees approach their work with energy, enthusiasm, and willingness to serve the customer. They want to come to work and engage with customers. Motivated employees, on the other hand, are driven to get the job done. Highly motivated employees tend to be high producers, but that doesn't necessarily mean their morale is high; they may be motivated by negative incentives such as a fear of losing their job.
Morale and motivation work together. When morale is high, it's common to see that a high percentage of employees are naturally motivated. When morale gets low-and employees become less self-motivated-managers often resort to unpleasant, heavy-handed, motivational tactics such as nagging, threatening, making more rules, and micromanaging which in turn lower morale even further.
How do you create high morale? There are a number of ways. Sherrie Mersdorf mentions three in her recent blog post (with a particular nod to the upcoming summer months). If you want more in-depth guidance, pick up a copy of Managing and Motivating Contact Center Employees.