Latest posts by Lynn Wamalwa (see all)
- The Foundation To Offering Top-notch Customer Service - January 17, 2018
- Working Overtime? Here Is What You Need To Know - November 1, 2017
- Ask Yourself These Questions Before You Bid For That Contract - June 29, 2017
Along with establishing a sense of structure and order, an organized work environment reduces stress, promotes team spirit and allows you to provide excellent customer service.
Top-notch customer service isn’t just important, it’s absolutely vital. As the foundation for the health and success of your business, customer service is the thing people will remember the most, sometimes more than your product or service.
Think of the last interaction you had with a business, maybe a local restaurant or shop, a medical facility, a call center. No matter the business, was it a pleasant experience or a less than ideal one? Given the choice, is it a business you’d interact with again?
If you were satisfied with the level of customer service you received, most likely the answer will be yes. If you were not satisfied with the level of customer services you received, chances are the answer will be no.
Businesses are constantly striving to improve their customer service because happy clients means repeat business and referrals. The old adage that an unhappy client will tell seven people about their experience is true. And in this day and age of digital connectivity and social media, one bad review can have a detrimental impact.
Successful businesses know that people are their greatest asset. They also know that these people need to be equipped with solid processes, systems and workflows to manage every aspect of the customer experience each and every time. An organized business operates consistently and more seamlessly than one that is constantly recreating the wheel.
In many businesses however, this foundation goes overlooked. Team members get busy, each working in their own silo. Turnover occurs and training is inadequate.
Though owners and managers may set out with the best intentions, time constraints and day-to-day client demands often derail even the best attempts to standardize.
Businesses that do not take a step back and commit the time necessary to standardize and document operations with careful thought to each client interaction will have an infinitely harder time getting ahead.
Start by mapping each step of a customer’s journey interacting with your business. No piece is too small or trivial to document. From lead through initial and ongoing outreach, to order processing/service delivery and follow-up, write down scripts, IT steps, etc.
Document how new team members will be recruited, hired, trained and evaluated. Work piece by piece until it’s all in your Operations Manual.
It will never be possible to standardize every possible interaction and plan for every contingency. Customers are unique and different requests/challenges come up over time. This is why the Operations Manual should be a living document where the name of the game is implement, test, refine.
When you develop a new process or refine a stale one, document it. And hold yourself and your team accountable for following the documented process each and every time.
According to Michael Gerber in The E Myth Revisited, “The purpose of a system is to free you to do the things you want to do. The System produces the results; your people manage the system.”
Organizing and documenting your operations gives your team a manual by which to operate, where the rules of the game are known, and continuous improvement is embraced.
It also gives your customers a consistent experience each and every time, so they know what to expect when they work with you. A consistently positive experience keeps customers coming back and telling their friends about you.
Providing top-notch customer service isn’t really that hard, but even the best of the best need a reminder or coaching now and then. In golf, keeping one “swing thought” in mind during a shot can have great results. Here are nine “customer service thoughts” that can help us and our work teams hit a hole-in-one:
Check the body language.
You’ve heard all the body language advice before, but it can’t be overemphasized. Smile when you greet your customer, and watch the rest of your body language too.
Don’t close yourself off by crossing your arms, look your customer in the eye, and help him or her feel comfortable and welcome.
Don’t break character when you’re “on stage.”
I’m not telling you to be fake or phony, but when you’re representing your business, you are “on stage.”
You’re also building a brand and your attitude and “performance” impacts your business’ reputation. Imagine seeing a doctor in scrubs behaving badly while they’re on duty (or even off-duty yet still in uniform).
If they break character, they also risk damaging your brand. Those of us who own a business or are in a leadership role don’t even have the luxury of taking off our uniform or name tag. Like it or not, we are our business’ brand. Always.
See the Customer’s Experience Through to the End.
Assisting a customer all the way to the end of their experience almost always takes more time and it definitely takes more commitment, but it’s also where the cream rises to the top. It means exceeding the customer’s expectations, not just meeting them.
In a different kind of business, seeing the experience to the end might mean taking on responsibility that isn’t normally your own just to help your customer.
Remember Your Internal Customer.
Another of my favorite customer service principles is to focus on providing stellar internal customer service. It’s not just our traditional, external customers that matter, it’s the people within our organization, as well.
Co-workers, bosses and board members fall in this category, and so do people in other departments or on the front line, folks who rely on our work in order to help the end user.
Helping employees identify their internal customers (and their internal service providers) is a good first start.
Mostly Importantly: Dont Forget the Emotional Bank Account.
Stephen Covey’s concept of the “emotional bank account,” discussed in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a good example.
Each of our relationships has an imaginary emotional bank account. When we have a positive interaction with a teammate or a customer, we’re making a deposit in the bank account; a negative interaction of course equals a withdrawal.
As long as the emotional bank account has a nice, healthy balance, an occasional withdrawal won’t jeopardize the alliance. An overdrawn account results in internal glitches and conflicts that, believe me, will eventually impact your external customers.
Just like your financial bank account, never let your emotional bank account go into the red!
Create a Strong First Impression
Customers expect companies to value their time and provide accurate, relevant, and complete answers to questions upon first contact.
When customers visit a support site, they should instinctively be able to find what they are looking for and not have to search through an endless array of disorganized content, which defeats the purpose of self-service support.
To effectively meet customer expectations and deliver a great first impression, seed your community with quality content, organize knowledge into Spaces, and properly tag content to increase post visibility.
Welcome Customer Feedback
Customer feedback is an essential, and often overlooked, element of a strong customer service strategy.
Kristin Smaby, author of Being Human is Good Business, says it best “When customers share their story, they’re not just sharing pain points. They’re actually teaching you how to make product, service, and business better.”
When customers share feedback, businesses can use that knowledge to evolve products and services and remain competitive in the market while also maintaining customer satisfaction.
Know What Your Customers Want
By far, this is the most important step to maintaining happy customers. Understanding your customers’ needs and even proactively anticipating what they may be calling for (I know, you’re not a psychic but this is where having access to that great customer data you keep will come in handy), will give them the warm and fuzzies…and that’s a good thing.
Be sure you are well to equipped with all the knowledge you need to help your customers overcome challenges, no matter how small or severe.
Actively demonstrating your teams’ dedication as well, to learning about your customers’ needs will put you in a great spot to help them weather any kind of obstacle.
Empower Your Team
If your employees love the place they work, your customers will love working with them. When your employees are excited to come to work and passionate about what they do, your customers will notice.
No doubt, one of your goals is to build and maintain a company culture that you and your team can be proud of.
Take some time to instill those cultural values in yourself and your team and watch the foundation of your business be housed on a great customer service experience!