There is a big difference between appreciating the importance of customers within a business and creating a customer centric team. A company that values its customer's business may set up a designated customer support team for complaints and feedback, but a customer centric company will put the needs of customers at the forefront of operations and ensure that all members of the team are on the same page. By re-evaluating the role of all team members in regards to customer service, it is possible to completely change the relationship that your brand has with its customer base and to achieve greater results in customers satisfaction and sales.
It may sound like a massive upheaval to completely change the way that a company deals with its clients – one of those “if it is not broken” moments – but some simple changes in the approaches of staff and the presentation of policies can make a big difference. The following points are all important questions to ask yourself about your own company's approach to customer service.
1) What is your brand philosophy and is it clear to customers and staff?
All companies have an ethos, a simple philosophy that they want to express to their customers and employees about the way they do business. In a customer centric team, the focus has to be on clear, concise values, ideally ones that involve putting customers and their needs first. The shorter the slogan, the easier it is to reinforce to employees through visual cues and repetition. The same goes for a list of vital policies. Create a simple list that can be reinforced on a regular basis through meetings and make sure that staff can memorize it well enough to repeat it back to the client. You do not need to drill it into them like an army officer, but it should be reinforced.
2) Are you providing the optimal level of customer interaction?
This is the primary focus of most customer-focused services – companies need to be able to listen to their customers and deal with complaints in an effective manner. Sending out a great message through these logos along with clever branding is a great start, but companies also need to be able to listen to feedback and amend policies where necessary. The first approach here is to use a strong customer centric team of support staff that can deal with calls and complaints and take surveys to determine customer satisfaction. Live chats with online advisers and support tickets on websites are the best way to deal with customers one-on-one for a meaningful conversation, but responsibilities have to go beyond the front line of customer service advisers.
It is also important to listen to what the customer is not saying. How many times have we experienced poor service and when asked “How was your experience?” (meal, shopping or any other experience) said “fine” or “good” knowing that complaining will not help or there just is not enough time in the schedule to complain. By giving a one-word response you can bet the customer experience failed. Rest assured, a one word response is a customer complaint.
3) Are you making sure that everyone is involved?
It used to be enough to let the customer service department deal with any personal interactions and complaints, but this approach can cause a division in the company where staff members are no longer on the same page. If tech staff, management and customer complaint handlers all have the same information, they can all make informed customer service decisions that really help consumers – instead of passing the buck by saying “This has nothing to do with my department.” Also, if high-level employees have to take customer support tickets once in a while, they can better appreciate the work of their staff and sometimes make the process easier if they find a fault with the system.
4) Are you empowering your employees?
Getting employees of all levels involved with a customer centric team is just the start. These employees – whether high-level management or low-level customer service staff – need to feel as though they have the power to deal with customer complaints in order to make positive changes. Too often a customer can feel as though they are not being listened to on a personal level because customer service employees freeze up at that critical moment. They are too used to following strict policies and are unable deviate from the script – an approach that can lead to poor results and a potential loss of business. The best alternative is to give employees room to breathe and to make personal judgment calls that are based on that particular situation.
5) Do your staff members have enough accountability?
This level of empowerment and control over customer interactions can make a big difference in the overall result of the phone call or query as it gives the employee greater ownership of both the situation and the client. Providing staff with a personal stake in the output drives them to succeed and to implement all those mantras and customer-focused codes that have become such an important part of the company ethos. It also gives them accountability for the results of that customer interaction, which should offer that extra incentive to provide great service. All accountable employees want to be seen to be doing their best and in a customer-facing role, and this means providing the very best service until a personal problem is resolved.
6) Are your staff members rewarded for their customer service?
There is one last tool for creating a customer centric team that should not be overlooked and that is the employee reward program. It is easy to think that by focusing on customers and customer service, employee satisfaction takes a bit of a back seat, but under appreciating staff members can be dangerous. By highlighting a particularly impressive customer service call or singling out a staff member with a great customer satisfaction record for the month, businesses can show employees that customer-centric work does not go unrewarded. This will provide that final incentive for employees to continue their good work. It does not have to be a bottle of champagne, a simple certificate or social media mention will do.
7) Building a customer centric team is as much about the employees and their role within the business as it is about the customer.
When building a business on customer service and customer-friendly values, it is natural to take the approach of “the customer is always right” while forgetting about the needs of employees. Building communication between staff and consumers is vital. Ensure that your philosophy is clear and make sure that all employees have some customer-facing experience. Remember to empower staff and make them accountable. Finally, reward and celebrate their successes.
© Ronald E. Foster, 2016