Customer service is like a team sport. It requires training, which helps improve knowledge and skill. The term ‘mastery’, if we can use it, requires dedication and time. I’ve mentioned previously that there are 10 ways to describe customer service in your organisation. Unlike sport, however, if you’re at number 1 it’s the lowest, with 10 being the highest on the ladder. It’s not possible to jump straight from number 1 through to number 10. You generally would need to go through each level until you reach the top. In this system I have discussed the drivers required to improve at each level as well as the typical obstacles that will be faced along the way. I would now like to look at the team specifically, because there is a direct correlation between your team and where you are on the customer service journey. These five positions correspond with the levels in twos, from one to 10.
That’s right, they’re not even on your team. They may as well kick goals for the other side. Bottom of the ladder in this situation is actually going backwards rather than just doing nothing, as normally expected. Having opponents on your team is no way to move forwards. This is where you need to go back to the draft and look at getting new players. Ones with a heart for customer service. Strong service leadership is also needed here as you build the foundations. In order to do this, you’ll need to know what your brand stands for and also how it relates to customers across their journey before, during and after doing business with you. Then your team will be ready to move forward.
Also referred to as a rookie. You at least have players on your side. But they’ve got a long way to go from this point. You’ll see them struggling in their customer service approach, making deliverables but just being too inconsistent. The novice really needs encouragement. Celebrating the things that they do right with customers, going back to the basic skills of how to interact and recover a customer when things go wrong. They need to learn the basics of how service should be delivered all of the time. It can be tough, though, so as team coach you need to be very motivating. If you get this right, the rewards will come in subsequent playing seasons.
Your team are now blending in. Middle of the ladder. Not the wooden spoon but definitely no finals or trophy. It’s really hard to get out of this point when they’re at the average level. Your team have come a good distance already so you know the investment is worth it. You can start teaching them more advanced skills so they can work better for you. Dealing with difficult customers, giving them a sense of empowerment, focusing on improving their efficiency. These are all of the things that will get your team moving and improving in their performance to the top parts of the ladder.
4. Team player
Now is the time when you can start to see your team separate as a cut above others. There is certainly momentum happening here and you are definitely not going backwards. Your team have bought into the customer service vision or common purpose statement, they are making sure their interactions are consistent with the atmosphere of your organisation, they see that customer service is their point of difference, and finally they are being creative in suggesting new and better ways to serve customers. Your organisation is playing in the finals now, but there is just a bit more to do before they can take home that trophy!
5. Role model
Everybody is communicating well, between each other, all for the best interests of the customer. Technology has now come in as a part of your business, effectively supporting your customer interactions whilst your team look at all of your customers as individuals and treat them as they would like to be treated. Off-field behaviour is also practised here, making sure that the physical and virtual environment is perfect for customers, even when they are not present. At the top of the ladder, your team are truly role models who will be able to influence others in sustaining service excellence in the long term but also continually looking for ways to be better so you can remain at the very top!
Your team is only as strong as the weakest person. You may have all five positions in your organisation, or you may have a combination. It is important to be able to recognise this and tailor your customer service improvement efforts to the different levels of your team in order to logically move up the ladder towards service excellence.
Chris Smoje is a customer service speaker, trainer, facilitator and founder of the DIME™ Customer Service approach. Chris works with organisations and their people to develop a common interest and excitement about delivering exceptional customer service results: www.dimecustomerservice.com