“How do you improve service for customers?” Now there’s a topic that no one ever talks about, right?
On the contrary, it seems it’s the focus of everyone’s attention – from the boardroom to contact center service managers and right up to service and support representatives. Improving service for customers is on everyone’s mind – or should be.
I’m going to propose to you that there are five common sense principles that if applied will significantly improve service. The principles stand on their own merit. What you choose to do to implement them depends on your particular situation. Here are the principles we call the HEART Model™ and some examples of how they apply to improving customer service.
Hear and Understand
There’s a lot of conversation in social media circles about listening to your customers. I know personally I appreciate it when companies listen to me. Unfortunately that didn't happen on the call I'm about to recap. A very pleasant representative from my cable company called last Friday to try to sell me on switching from my current land line to the cable company's phone package.
The rep was on task and did a lot of things well but totally missed an opening I gave him to solve a problem I was having with his competitor. He heard that I wasn’t interested in switching but he didn’t seem to register that I was unhappy with the current carrier’s voice-mail.
As soon as he heard I wasn’t interested in switching (and I did say that) he promptly and politely closed the call. What that told me was that he was more concerned about his average call handle time (AHT) than listening to what I was saying about my current service. Is that good customer service? Let’s just say that it would have been much better customer service if he had listened and, as a result, had been able to give me something that resolved my problem. I’m pretty sure you have to hear and understand a problem before you can solve it.
Expect the Best
I’ve written about “Expecting the Best” before because I think it has the power to transform a customer service interaction from mundane to something really special. Representatives are a thousand times more likely to have a good day and provide great customer service if they come to work expecting the best.
What that means is they come to work trusting that their training, their tools, and their knowledge and experience will help them do their jobs the way they really want to. They come to work with confidence that management has their back. And they come to work visualizing working with customers who are cooperative and appreciative of their efforts.
Here are three tips for creating a climate that supports “expecting the best”:
- Hire the right people. Tony Hsieh of Zappos fame said in an interview that he didn’t care if prospective employees were passionate about shoes. They had to be passionate about customer service.
- Make task enablement a priority. That means providing the kind experiential training that really prepares employees to do their jobs and giving them tools that actually help them be more efficient and effective in providing meaningful customer service.
- Support the principle through frequent coaching and feedback. Praise is the fastest way to ensure you see positive behaviors repeated and adopted by others.
Act with Integrity
Do you want a guaranteed way to improve customer service? Demonstrate integrity – keep commitments, follow through, accept responsibility if there’s an error, and treat everyone like you’d like your favorite person in the world to be treated.
I saw an interesting two minute TED video from November 2009 from a fellow named Derek Sivers whose premise is that “There’s a flip side to everything”. To me, it speaks to respecting diversity.
So when we think about respecting diversity we have to recognize that customers want to be taken seriously; they want to be given the benefit of the doubt, and treated with respect even if they approach a problem in a way that is different from how we might see it.
It’s our job as customer service professionals to demonstrate that we “get it”, we see what they see. To do that reps need to listen, ask questions, and confirm their understanding before proceeding to assume the customer lives on a street not a block…or vice versus.
Transcendence is about growth, learning from mistakes, setting goals and when they’ve been met, setting new goals. Companies can improve customer service by listening to what their customers say about their service and adjusting.
I called a long term health insurance company (who shall go nameless to protect the innocent and any hope of claims being settled in the near future) and was confronted by a seemingly endless labyrinth, otherwise known as an IVR. How many menus would I endure before surrendering and hanging up? The IVR won. I hung up and found another number and eventually reached a very nice, very helpful agent. The IVR experience, however, had so irked me that I was curt and unfriendly to her. I analyzed my attitude while on hold (Did she do that to manage my mood?) and ended up realizing that I was taking my irritation out on her inappropriately. So — here comes the transcendent moment! — I apologized for my curtness and told her to tell everyone who’d listen at her company that the IVR was making her job harder than it needed to be.
Do you know any companies you wish would listen to you and transcend themselves?