As customers, we have more choice than ever. The power is in our hands to make informed decisions about the brands we associate with and the goods that we purchase. When customer service is poor, we can easily take action and buy from another provider.
As providers, we know that it takes considerable effort to attract and engage with customers. We can’t afford to let that go to waste simply because we failed to meet our customer’s expectations. So, what does it take to deliver customer service excellence?
Customer Service Week has identified five essential factors, and, in this article, I’ll be sharing some examples of where companies have addressed the following points:
It may sound obvious, but great customer service is dependent on a clear and current understanding of what your customers want. The challenge is that this changes; what was important when you set up in business may be quite different from what will attract and engage your customers today. So, when was the last time you asked your customers for feedback?
Capability and Skills
Every member of your team must be equipped to deliver customer service excellence. This involves communicating the company values and expected standards to all staff. It involves training to develop skills and build confidence. It means having processes and resources in place to help everyone to operate effectively as a team, as well as on an individual basis.
One of my first clients was a security company. They had a new member of staff who was severely lacking in confidence. They could see her potential, and wanted to invest in her skills when it came to customer service. Handling difficult telephone conversations was a particular challenge and she was frequently upset after a call.
In addition to Call Handling Training, I worked with her on customer service, interpersonal and communication skills over a course of mentoring sessions. She became increasingly competent and assertive in delivering good customer service and fulfilled her potential as a valued member of the team. Eventually, that individual was promoted to Office Manager; supporting others in a customer service role.
Recognition of Good Practice
There will be individuals in your team who go the extra mile. Whether it is working longer hours to get a customer’s order out, taking time to give a little extra help to a customer or using initiative to resolve an issue, their actions should be recognised.
Ashridge Group is a local people-focused company with clearly defined core values. They invest in their employees to ensure that they are trained, equipped and supported to deliver great customer service. They see this as a fundamental reason why the company has experienced 70% growth in the past year, with the majority of new business coming from recommendations.
When they notice a member of their team exceeding the already high customer service expectations, they make time to present them with a ‘Thank you’ card. Emma Walker of Ashridge Group said “Recognition of good practice need not be a grand, expensive gesture. Presenting a personal, handwritten card is one step that any employer could take to show that they value good practice.”
Ashridge Group also presents hampers to employees who consistently deliver on the company values and have introduced an Employee Award event, which will grow year on year. In addition, they have actively encouraged customer feedback and ensure that any praise given about a team member is shared with that employee. How do you recognise those who go above and beyond?
It is no good simply telling customers and staff that customer service is a priority, it must be embedded into the business ethos. Lead by example, let customer service excellence drive decisions and ensure that your company values, processes and policies empower your team.
I’m currently working with an international events company. Their team of managers are professional and efficient, yet it has been recognised that customer service needs to be higher on their agenda. I have developed a customer service training programme for these leaders. The aim is to help them put in place values, standards and KPIs that ensures their teams are equipped, trained and supported to consistently deliver customer service excellence.
With standards in place, everyone in the team can be clear about their role in enhancing the customer experience. If someone is failing to measure up, referring to standards also makes it easier to address specific issues.
Consistency in customer service can be a real challenge for large companies, but it is essential if they want to develop a positive brand reputation. This leads on to the next point.
Trust and Reputation
The occasional mistake can be addressed and forgiven, in fact, when issues are resolved with efficiency and a personal touch, it can enhance the company’s reputation. A breakdown of trust results when issues happen time and again, sometimes the exact same problem reoccurring. This gives a clear message that the company does not care.
As a Judge at the UK Complaints Handling Awards, I have seen that with a concerted and sustained effort to implement customer service standards, policies and training, even companies with a poor reputation have been able to turn things around.
This year, the winner of the ‘Most Improved Complaint Handling – Customer-centric’ award was United Utilities. This was well-deserved, yet just a few years ago, the company had a very poor reputation. With a demotivated team and disenchanted customers, they realised it was time for radical change.
The management team undertook a range of measures to become more approachable and gather feedback from staff and customers. United Utilities then completely changed their operations, improved communication and processes, trained their team and began turning things around. It takes time to regain trust, but the company is now proactive, quick to respond to issues and is open to learning from insight. With a desire for continuous improvement, they are now an award-winning, customer orientated company.
Customer Service Training
Customer service training can involve 1:1 sessions that help an individual to realise their potential, through to developing standards, policies and leadership tools that underpin large corporations. If Customer Service Week has promoted action to improve your customer relations, Helen Pettifer Training is on hand to provide online courses, in-house training and managerial support. How can we help you to help your customers?