Resources are all being stretched as much as possible. It’s definitely not the time to add more personnel to your payroll (although counter arguments could suggest this will cost in the short term, but bring results in the long term), so how do you find the time and resources to invest in driving improvements to customer service? The entire organisation, from the board of directors down must see the value that customer service has at the seat on an executive table. It’s not only about appointing a chief customer officer, rather making sure that someone in the organisation can take ownership of allocating these customer service efforts. It simply comes down to the prioritisation of goals and resources where working in unison to improve customer service will actually clear many of the underlying challenges that individual departments are experiencing. However there are still the same amount of hours in a day so it is about being innovative.
No two customers or customers’ problems are the same, which is why we rely on people to give customer service. The best thing about people is that they will question and challenge things without the necessary software update! By being innovative, employees who are faced with problems are able to act on their own, coming up with solutions that will suit the customer. Creativity is no longer a skill held only by the marketing department. It is often frontline employees who come up with the best customer solutions beyond the confines of a boardroom table. Extend innovation across the whole organisation and the result is being progressive and creating solutions before problems arise. This doesn’t mean investing millions of dollars in information technology, rather demonstrating an awareness of service detractors and being forward-thinking in solutions. The more innovation, the less work that piles up making exceptional customer service that little bit more unattainable. Here are four areas where there are hidden pockets of time and resources that will create value for your organisation.
1. Start with dedicated service training
To be innovative you must be prepared to be relentless. Recruiting can be a tiring process and takes a lot of time, especially if it is done properly — it is better to have this cost up front than down the track when you have made a poor recruitment decision. This means you can’t take your foot off the accelerator now that you’ve made your employment decision, as training is even more important. Depending on the size of your organisation, you may not have a dedicated training team, and if you do, that training team may not be specifically trained to perform their roles well because training roles are often considered to be promotional positions for senior staff who can use their knowledge in training newer staff in the organisation. Whether they are experienced or novice, leaders should ensure that on boarding is met with a dedicated time to train the importance of customer service, in isolation and separate from everything else. This means the time is invested upfront and new staff will receive a stronger and compelling message that can be taken and used during their employment. This is a much better way than rushing training to get them working quicker.
2. Allow some flexibility with customers
For those who have worked in a particular role or department for some time, it would appear that there is nothing new with customer service. Have you ever been in a situation where you just look at a customer and think you can predict the words that will come out of their mouth? Whilst customers may be repetitive and customer service training appears that one-size-fits-all, the reality is that interactions need to have a degree of flexibility in them to provide exceptional service. By treating customers as human beings and giving your staff the latitude to apply flexibility to their problems, things can be resolved much quicker and also require less intervention from senior leaders.
3. Empower your team to do what they feel is right
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel gives all of their staff members (referred to as Ladies and Gentlemen) the autonomy and trust to use their own discretion in service recovery. This approach involves giving each staff member judgement in spending $2,000.00 per hotel guest per day if needed to enhance their experience or resolve a problem. The key here is not about the money or value, but the fact that it can be done without seeking permission or obtaining approval from a supervisor or manager before doing so. Now this is not a new concept, but think about your organisation, and then other organisations you have been involved in as a customer. How many times has there been a simple problem that has to get escalated and escalated and escalated before being resolved? Wouldn’t you as a business leader want to remove the red tape and empower all of your staff to create positive memories with customers? If staff are trained in customer service well, they will make good judgement in recovering customers which means less time and money is spent handling long-standing complaints.
4. Understand that efficiency is not only about speed
Picture three cups of coffee: a small, medium and large size. If you had the option of selling these in your organisation, would you choose to sell all of them, or just one? Let me explain a bit further. If you sold only one size then there would be less choice for your customers and you would categorise your market into a one-size-fits-all approach; however, you could be efficient and quickly serve all your customers the same thing. If you sold all three, your customers would have a lot more choice, but there would be a greater risk of accidently serving them the wrong one, or their size may not be available. It would also take you longer to order the three sizes too, but those customers who wanted more or less would be much more satisfied. Customers usually want quick service. But quick service sometimes affects the accuracy and reliability of what the customer is receiving. How many times have you been given food at drive-thru and find your order is incorrect when you get home. Slowing your service slightly to focus on accuracy and reliability until you find the right medium is the best way to get things done right the first time.
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