Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ripple Rewind: You Think But Do You Know?

Originally posted April 26, 2007

By the way...for any of my long-lost TAAO Trainees, I miss you guys!


I just finished delivering my 3 day customer service training to the State of Texas tax assessors and collectors and boy was it a fun class! I had an amazing group of students who were willing to engage and share, learn and challenge and most of all have fun. It was a good three days and I can honestly say I felt a bit sad yesterday afternoon when everyone said goodbye.

One my students came up to me near the end and told me that she appreciated me challenging her to think about how her staff looks at serving the customer. It made her aware not to assume that her staff understands or appreciates the importance of certain approaches to handling customer situations just because she does.

That's a really big point when it comes to customer service. I think we all assume a lot when it comes to our employees' understanding the hidden rules and unspoken expectations but do they really? You think they do but do you know for sure?

I mean just because you would (without fail) return an important client's voice mail at 5:15 on a Friday afternoon and not wait until Monday doesn't necessarily guarantee your staff will, right? Or perhaps understanding you let the next customer in line know you are ready to check them out by saying "may I help the next person in line" rather than shouting "NEXT!" (Hey Fry's Electronics...are your customers cattle?) Or what about letting a customer walk right out the door without saying a simple "thank you and please come back and see us."

Hmmm can someone say the kiss of death to the customer impression and experience?

These are the little things we all assume our staff understands but I submit they do not. Sure some people are smart enough to catch on and do what they see others doing and you as the manager, business leader or owner hope the powers of observation take in more good rather than bad right? But what happens when you are not around? What happens when the new employee only sees bad examples?

One of the first steps in creating a customer service culture is to focus on the entire experience. Never assume that the person whom you just hired understands or knows what is appropriate language, demeanor or attitude. You have to teach that to them. You have to say, without fail, what your expectations are in no uncertain terms. Then and only then will they begin to understand what you expect of them and how you want them to create an outstanding customer impression and experience.

The little things matter. In today's society we can not take anything for granted. People need to have their level of expectations clearly defined and understand that anything less is unacceptable. Great customer service begins with a good understanding of what it takes to train our people to deliver it. It is worth the time to do it and to keep doing it over and over again so that your staff lives and breaths the little things that your customers need and expect.

Ripple On!!!

1 comment:

Artie Gold said...

One of the most important -- and often overlooked -- factors in how the customer relationship is forged has to do with how the front line customer service personnel are treated as employees. If employees are treated as being expendable, they will treat customers the same way (actually, they will tend to treat customers just a little better than they themselves are treated by management, but that's because, on the whole, most folks are just pretty nice).
The other factor is that customer service workers must be empowered with just a little bit of leeway, a little bit of problem solving and sometimes problem salving as part of their tools. Customers can smell the "I'm going to be very deferential, but because it's all I'm ever allowed to say, I'm going to say 'no' in more ways than you can imagine" style of customer service a mile off.

And there's one word that should never be uttered by either a customer service representative or supervisor: Policy.