During my recent interview on a local radio show, one of the co-hosts posed a question: “Errol, exactly, what is customer service?”
The definition is straightforward in theory, but in practice, customer service has evolved. I don’t remember anyone ever asking me that particular question, but I replied:
“Customer service is a methodology that, when put in motion, creates a customer’s experience.”
This definition is not specific to any industry, nor does the size of the organization matter. Yet you may wonder what I mean by methodology. When defining customer service as a methodology, I’m speaking of the systems an organization puts in place to provide a customer experience.
Okay. Now you may be thinking, “Errol, what systems are you referring to? Allow me to explain.
Customer service methodology, explained
When determining your customer service methodology, you are planning the experience your customer will receive when interacting with people within your business.
For instance, when a customer calls and your inbound call methodology dictates that staff answering calls will perform certain tasks while on the call and do so within a certain time frame, those requirements lead to the customer’s experience. When that person’s performance review and salary increase is tied to their success in meeting the goals of that inbound call strategy, this too determines the customer’s experience with your organization. If your strategy causes your team to be more concerned with meeting goals than taking the necessary steps and time for each customer’s situation, this too creates an experience.
7 ways to improve your customer service experience
If you want to improve customer service and experience, focus on a few key areas.
1. Revisit your core values
When creating core values for your organization, you are creating an experience for your customers. If words such as integrity, honesty, respect, and value are included in your core values, your customers should experience these concepts when interacting with your business.
Core values are the framework from which your customer service methodology is created. Every component of your strategy should be grounded in your core values.
2. Create customer-centric training programs
When choosing your employee training methodology, once again, you’re creating an experience for your customers. Customers depend upon customer contact personnel to be experts on your products and services. Keep the customer’s experience in mind when developing training programs.
3. Identify ambassadors
I suggest identifying ambassadors for your organization. Consider the following, when assessing customer service teams:
- Are they educated on your various products or services?
- Have they utilized or experienced your products or services for themselves in order to gain the customer’s perspective?
- What tools will they need to provide a great customer experience?
Be sure to equip them with basic soft skills training. A person’s ability to be pleasant and professional goes a long way in creating a positive customer experience.
4. Refine your hiring practices
When hiring, you decide who will be the face of your organization. Your hiring choices will undoubtedly impact the customer experience. This is why it’s vital to carefully establish your hiring criteria. What characteristics are critical for your customer contact personnel? Is industry experience more important than personality traits? Remember, you’re attempting to create a great customer experience. Your hiring choices will bear fruit! Make sure it’s good fruit!
5. Improve management practices
When applying your management practices, remember that this too impacts the customer experience. Just as you strive to make sound hiring decisions, it’s even more important to exercise quality management practices. Make sure managers have the proper tools required for this position – people skills, products, and services knowledge, coaching skills, leadership skills, and a comprehensive understanding of the business.
Should your customer-facing employees become frustrated with management practices, your customers will eventually be impacted. Employee turnover, discontent, and low productivity all create an experience for your customer. Manage employees in a way that will certainly lead to great customer experiences.
6. Review your complaint resolution process
How well do you resolve customer complaints? When you develop and carryout complaint resolution practices, you create an experience for your customer. We all know that sometimes mistakes are made or things get left undone. When these errors happen, the need for a quick and thorough resolution is paramount. Consider the following:
- Is your complaint resolution process customer-friendly?
- Does every resolution require upper-management approval, or are your customer contact teams equipped with options for a speedy resolution?
- Do you track customer complaints to identify patterns and trends?
The use of online customer service tools can help you identify operational issues, which, once corrected, will alleviate repeat complaints and create positive customer experiences.
7. Improve your customer feedback process
When gathering customer feedback regarding your products or services, you’re creating an experience for your customers. We all know the value of getting a customer’s opinion. Most love the opportunity to let you know what they think of your company. Make it easy for them to do so. The more customer feedback you receive, the more data you have to make decisions.
- Do you need to improve your product or services?
- Do your customer contact teams need additional training?
Provide regular feedback opportunities to stay current on what’s important to your customers.
These various areas of your customer service methodology create a system that delivers customer experiences. Examine your systems and processes to ensure they all are focused on providing what matters most to your customers.
Speaker, author, and consultant Errol Allen is the founder and CEO of Errol Allen Consulting, a Houston, Texas-based company that provides operations analysis/improvement, standard operating procedures documentation, and supervisor/management training. He utilizes his 25 years of hands-on experience in assisting his clients in creating customer and employee focused organizations.
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