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The Lost Art of Customer Service
Are your employees reflecting a professional image to clients and customers?
Are you losing revenue because one employee has poor interpersonal skills?
While attending a professional workshop in NYC recently, I stopped at a local convenience store to purchase a few miscellaneous items. Before the sales associate entered the sale on the cash register, it seemed urgent that she respond to a text message on her iPhone. I use the term “urgent” tongue in cheek because it would seem that nothing should have been more important than the customer in front of her: a customer wanting to complete a sales transaction swiftly and without interruption. Obviously, this employee was not concerned about her representation of the store’s image, nor did she try to conceal texting as if to acknowledge that the behavior was unprofessional.
As I left the store, I wondered, ‘did the store have a policy against employees texting while on the clock?’ Perhaps the employee was the owner’s daughter and therefore, enjoyed job security regardless of her performance. Was she even aware that her behavior was unprofessional and blatantly rude?” Did she participate in a training class that included expectations when interacting with customers?
Some might say that the level of customer service you receive is based on the cultural norms associated with a particular area of the country. Others might suggest that customer service is specific to an industry, the age of the employee or even based on the relative price of the goods or services provided. Regardless of the region or industry, true customer service is on the endangered species list.
How do you define “true” customer service?
How do you define “true” customer service? Dr. Ken Blanchard, renowned speaker, consultant and bestselling author of “The One Minute Manager” and contributor to “Who Moved My Cheese?” gives an outstanding presentation on customer service.
Dr. Blanchard quotes,
“If you don’t take care of your customer,
someone else will.”
These words have resonated with me throughout my professional career and now more than ever as I consult individuals and organizations in the current economic climate.
“You” often becomes “They” when we talk about customer service.
When working with clients, I like to meet with as many employees as possible to gain a better understanding of the underlying challenges within the organization. Employees often identify ‘unclear roles and responsibilities’ or ‘a lack of accountability’ as one of the biggest threats to success.
If you poll your employees from the executives to the non-salaried employees within the organization, you might be surprised to hear their responses when asked, “Who is responsible for providing our customers the highest level of service?”
You might hear: “it’s not my area to manage customers, they didn’t tell me, they didn’t do anything about it, they blamed me for the mistake, and my all time favorite, “it’s not my job.”
The Answer: We are customer service.
Each and every employee within a company should have a clear understanding of how their daily activities directly or indirectly affect the level of service customers receive. If we assign responsibility to a department, an individual or an automated response system, to provide service to the customer, each interaction should make the customer feel like a VIP. Without customers, the business will cease to exist.
How can you ensure your employees reflect a professional image and your company is providing true customer service?
1. Recruit and Retain the RIGHT Person
Does your company have an effective recruitment and retention program? Are the qualifications and requirements reflective of the roles and responsibilities for the roles and responsibilities associated with the position?
2. Train, Assess, & Re-Train
Interpersonal training should be equitable to technical or job skill training for all employees at all levels. We make assumptions that if an individual is hired for a sales position that he or she already knows how to interact with customers. Do your employees understand how to tailor their preferred communication style based on the other person’s style?
3. Recognize and Reinforce
All too often we are quick to tell 20 people when we have a negative experience at a store or restaurant, but we rarely provide positive recognition when we receive great service. Implementing a customer-focused culture cannot be sustained with an online survey or an announcement at a monthly meeting. Employees at all levels should be encouraged to provide positive feedback to other employees when they observe true customer service. Does your team feel they are sharing and receiving recognition?
As a business owner, if you treat your employees like your customers, you are far more likely to retain top individuals who are truly invested in the success of the organization. Call or email Ellen Z Marlow to discuss the challenges and opportunities within your organization.