Great Customer Service Isn’t an Accident
By Donna Fluss
I frequently hear customer service war stories, and there are a few common themes: Agents are poorly trained and do not know the answers; agents would clearly prefer to be anywhere else, doing anything else; agents rush people off calls; agents reject reasonable/common-sense requests because they conflict with company policy; companies don’t care about their customers’ time and make them repeat the same information over and over; customers are transferred until disconnected. In an era where customer service is a primary differentiator between otherwise indistinguishable products and services, this doesn’t make sense, does it?
Delivering a great customer experience should be a top goal for all organizations because it impacts the perception of a company and its bottom line. When customers are highly satisfied and enjoy doing business with a company, they have no reason to go elsewhere. But delivering great service is difficult and expensive. And in most cases, it requires companies to make major transformations, starting at the top.
Best Practices to Enable a Great Service Experience
There are proven practices for delivering outstanding service, but many companies use only one or two of them, and only periodically instead of consistently, which communicates a clear message to employees that these standards are not all that important. It is one thing to tell your employees that they need to provide an outstanding customer service experience; it’s another to make the commitment and investments that enable them to actually deliver it.
The following actions can position companies and their employees to consistently deliver the high quality of service your customers expect:
Establish shared customer service goals for all departments and hold every manager and employee accountable. Delivering great service has to be the responsibility of everyone in a company, not just the contact center. This will happen only if all departments share this goal and are evaluated based on how well they achieve it.
Break down organizational silos so that you can improve first-contact resolution. Your customers see your organization as one entity, not as a group of disparate departments that do their own thing. Make sure they are working in tandem to satisfy customers during the first contact.
Make it easy for customers to conduct business with your organization. You have to rethink all of your company’s policies and procedures so that customers’ needs come out ahead of corporate priorities.
Empower your agents to do what’s right for customers. Give front-line staff the freedom and support to fix issues, even if a solution ends up contradicting an existing policy. The need to limit fraud and risk shouldn’t be an excuse to prevent your staff from delivering a great customer service experience. You train them to make customers happy; let them do their job.
Reward employees for delivering outstanding service. Employees are expected to carry out great service, but when they really do something above and beyond their job requirements, recognize and reward them for doing so, as this will motivate their peers to follow suit.
Reward employees for identifying ways to improve the customer experience. To break away from stale, dated, and ineffective techniques, demonstrate management’s commitment to having staff members come up with better approaches by celebrating innovation.
Use customer analytics applications to identify and address customer insights, needs, and wants in a timely manner. There is a new generation of analytically oriented applications that can identify customer issues and opportunities in real time and near real time. These applications include speech analytics, text analytics, desktop analytics, enterprise feedback management (surveying), and customer journey analytics, just to mention a few. Set up change management programs across departments, and break down institutionalized silos so that the findings can be applied on a timely basis.
These strategic and tactical practices will make a difference. Ultimately, however, great service depends on establishing a customer-oriented corporate culture, a process that starts at the top and permeates the organization.