What is customer service? This is really about caring for the customer much broader than simply another transaction. It is about looking beyond the moment of the sale. It is about cultivating loyalty among customers and employees.
Department vs. Attitude
You and I have both been in establishments where it almost seemed as though customers were a burden or nuisance. A company that embraces the “customer service department” (CSD) attitude will actually cause this problem by under-staffing such that even a moderate level of customer flow means the employees cannot complete the other assigned tasks from supervisors. This is not the employees’ fault; this is a system problem by the organization.
An enterprise that embraces a “customer service attitude” (CSA) will never take an eye off the customer from a service standpoint. The fact is, without customers, the organization will cease to exist – regardless of type. Whether for-profit or non-profit, secular or religious, customers are the essence of the business. Losing focus on this because there seem to be more important things to do is not only mid-guided but will ensure the company struggles or eventually ceases to exist. The CSA organization will continually re-evaluate itself on how it can give a stand-out performance to each individual who walks through the door, calls by phone or contacts via e-mail. There must be no alternative.
So how does this relate to the individual? Maybe you work for an organization with the CSD approach. What are you to do? Perhaps you work with a CSA organization. How do you help it to be better still? Here are some thoughts.
- Honestly evaluate what you do and do not control in terms of service – You must be brutally honest with yourself; no rationalizing allowed. Are there any areas of service where you have leeway? Take action no matter how small it may seem.
- Plant CSA seeds – Usually in even the most difficult environments, it is permissible to use good manners. Do you? How about throwing in an occasional “sir” or “ma’am”? How would you treat this person if it was your own mother or a favorite uncle? How do you dress? Do you present the image to which the organization aspires? Little things matter.
- Smile at people when you meet a glance – It is amazing how contagious a smile can be. Whether this is your last resort or in addition to your other efforts, encouraging other employees and customers makes a positive difference. It will make you feel better too in what may be a dysfunctional setting. Did you know people can hear a smile over the phone?
- Listen and adapt – None of us can get too good at listening. What is the customer asking … holistically? What are the things unsaid? Is there a broader unmet need that aligns with the organization purpose? Let your mind ponder on how to more creatively fill the need. Ask more questions of customers and other team members.
- Cross-pollinate ideas – Be constantly on the lookout for ways to delight customers. If you work in the non-technical function of the business, how much do you understand of the technical side in order to be more conversant with customers? If you are in the technical work, how much do you understand about the administrative function and the processes there? Can you talk intelligently about the basics outside of your area of expertise? Are you an expert on the organization? If not, in what areas could you gain more knowledge?
- Foster friendly competition among the team to make customer care better. For the sake of the organization, try to constantly improve in delivery and consistency in your customer service even on the days when you don’t feel motivated to do so. What is the rate of return customers? How many returning customers ask for you by name? How many customers do you know by name? Do you exercise your memory skills with their on-going needs? If they are chatty, do you know anything about their work or family? Be careful not to be nosey but show a genuine interest in the person.
Have a great week!