I went for a walk with my neighbors today. There were five of us, a real cross section. In just the 2.75 miles it took to get our steps in, I was reminded of key customer service lessons that you might find helpful.
One neighbor explained how inconsistent newspaper delivery plagued our neighborhood and how no one could seem to fix it. This reminded me of the important strategy: BUILD COMPETENCE.
Another neighbor reported that a home services company called to complain that her check was 8 dollars short and demanded the balance. This brought to mind the important strategy: EMPOWER YOUR EMPLOYEES.
And a third neighbor shared the frustration their daughter was feeling as she was building a new home. Seems a month had gone by between work days by her contractor. The contractor had indicated a timeline yet hadn’t stuck to it, prioritizing another build in the area. This problem hits two important strategies: SET EXPECTATIONS and FOLLOW THROUGH.
Let’s take a look at each of these strategies, and what the effects would be if a successful customer service strategy had been implemented in each case. What would the customer response be, and how would that response impact company success?
1. BUILD COMPETENCE
You owe it to your employees to give them what they need to effectively complete the job they are given. What does this look like?
- Hire for success – check for customer service aptitude before assigning that employee.
- Train for effectiveness – be sure you teach every aspect of the job the employee is expected to complete.
- Support for completion – make sure you support your employees and give them every resource they need to be successful.
One of the most popular survey platforms, Survey Monkey, shares these helpful strategies for improving competence in customer service: 6 Keys to Improve Your Team’s Customer Service Skills.
2. EMPOWER YOUR EMPLOYEES
Once you have built competence, you can trust your employees to make decisions in the field.
- Allow them to make small discounts, comp expenses, or add services to delight your customers. What if your HVAC employee offered to change a lightbulb for an elderly customer? Delightful! What if our home services professional told my neighbor to forget about the extra eight dollars? He would create a repeat customer for life, rather than prompting my neighbor to look for a new service provider.
- Set your employees up for success in advance by giving them the confidence that you’ll stand behind them when they make those positive decisions to improve the customer’s experience.
- Protect your employees. Let them know you will not tolerate them being verbally abused by unhappy customers. Prepare and equip them with skills for de-escalating angry callers. Surprise them regularly with compliments and small tokens of appreciation. Keeping your customer service representatives in a healthy emotional space is an important strategy to ensure success.
Chris Rose and Noel Tichy, writing for Harvard Business Review, offer practical suggestions in their article, Here’s How to Actually Empower Customer Service Employees.
3. SET EXPECTATIONS AND FOLLOW THROUGH
Your customer service employees must do their job. They must set appropriate exceptions for customers and then follow through.
- Equip your employees with the knowledge needed to make reasonable assurances to the customer.
- Back up your customer service team with other departments. For example, your scheduler should have a realistic understanding of when the service department can deliver, and your service department must also understand the importance of meeting the timeline set by the scheduler.
- If customer service representatives are not effective, then you will need to reassign or part ways. Thus, we circle back to our first tip – build competence by hiring and training well!
The Young Entrepreneurs Council shares these tips in Small Business Trends: 12 Tips About Managing Client Expectations You Can’t Afford to Miss.
Implement these strategies with purpose. Decide how you will measure success. Reward your customer service providers frequently and begin tracking the number of repeat customers, higher customer satisfaction survey numbers, and happier employees.
In today’s challenging labor market, keeping top customer service talent can be as tricky as attracting them in the first place. In our next blog post, we’ll highlight new technologies that will not only help you attract top candidates and build your applicant pipeline, but also empower new employees with personalized strategies to keep them engaged and performing at the top of their game!
Have questions about building a top-performing customer service team?
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