I have spoken with several clients over the past few weeks about how to “keep their customer service improvement process” moving forward and alive.  They have been at it for several years and performance has plateaued.  What were my ideas on getting new life into the program? 

Here are some of the suggestions I made:

Start with your employees.  Do they really understand what the company desires to achieve from improved customer service?  Have you defined what’s in it for them (e.g., a more pleasant work environment, potential for more loyal customers, perhaps better raises)?  Have you defined what’s in it for the customer if service is improved?  I notice that many clients may do this once, perhaps twice and then assume the messages are ingrained.  They are not.  You need to continually remind and refresh.

-Celebrate success.  Yes, if your performance indicators are moving up then you are having successes somewhere.  Look for them.  Think of appropriate ways to celebrate.  Sometimes, a fresh box of doughnuts to a field service team that just had a great monthly performance is worth its weight in gold (or doughnuts, as the case may be).  By celebrating these successes you are also sending messages about the kinds of things managers expect of employees when it comes to delivering great customer service.

-Consistency.  I wrote a blog in June on the importance of consistency. Consistency matters because customers want to know what to expect when they deal with a service provider.  If you have locations that are not performing up to par, understand why and take corrective action.  If you have locations or areas that are exceptionally good, understand what they are doing and identify processes and approaches that could be applied more broadly through your organization.-

-Sell your customers.  Most serious service improvement efforts involve an ongoing feedback process from customers.  When you solicit customer feedback you are creating and implicit bargain with the customer.  If the customer gives feedback he or she expects to see things improve.  Sometimes, the improvements can be dramatic and the customer quickly sees them.  Most of the time, the improvements are more subtle and it is typically a lot of little things that add up to create a better customer service experience.  Let customers know what you have done as a result of their input.  I know one client that in each quarterly newsletter publishes the three things they have done to improve service.  In addition to letting customers know that you are actually doing something with their input, they soon see that the time to respond to the email or answer the survey call is worth it.

These are a few suggestions that can help you keep your customer service improvement efforts from getting stale.  What ideas have you tried that have worked.  Let me know!

Lynn Daniel

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