Through the work we are doing with ServiceConnect, we are learning what I think are “givens” that are essential to improving customer service. I want to discuss the more critical points that are essential to improving customer service in this post.
A focus on the customer and a focus on the employee go hand-in-hand.
We believe there are three critical areas to focus on when improving customer service. These are processes, employee skills and training, and attitudes (behaviors). I can think of several companies that are suppliers that have very good processes and their employees are well trained. What is missing for me as a customer are employees that are really engaged in their work. I can also think of suppliers where employees are really engaged and seem to care about whether what they do has a positive impact on me. The employees’ attitudes make all the difference!
There are no “magic bullets” that solve an issue quickly.
Creating great customer service is a journey. It is made up of small improvements. An effective customer service improvement strategy is the epitome of what a continuous improvement/learning program should be.
Focusing primarily on a score can get in the way of improving the customer experience.
Consider many local car dealers. I am often coached by the dealer’s employees about what score I should give. For me, such behavior causes me to lower my assessment, and it also shows that the focus is not really on creating a great customer service experience.
Understand the real environment in your company.
The work environment, or culture, is made up of formal and informal rules that influence employee behavior constantly. Unwritten rules are often more influential than written ones in an organization. As one wise leader said, environment “is what happens when the boss is not looking.” Culture most always trumps strategy.
Positive recognition matters.
In those environments where successes are celebrated and failures are addressed in a constructive and low key way, there is an entirely different employee vibe. Excitement, energy, and a desire to serve the customer are what I observe as a result.
In the b-to-b world, delivering great customer service is about creating a partnership with customers.
In most of these environments, the product has ongoing and significant support needs. The customer wants to know that his provider is taking actions to improve service. What I see happening too often is that improvements are made as a result of customer feedback but this fact is not then marketed to customers. Customers want to know their input has an impact. When it does, the partnership is stronger because the customer knows the provider is listening AND taking action.
Have a focused strategic plan.
If you are going to improve customer service and loyalty, a focused plan is essential. It does not have to be long (the shorter the better). But it needs to clearly identify what things are important to the organization and why. Those of our clients that are performing better on the ServiceConnect program tend to be the ones with a clear and concise plan.
What other givens do you think are part of improving customer service? Please send me your ideas. I would like to know what you think.