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The Customer Service Trifecta

by Roy Chambers (follow)
Business (103)      Service (8)     
In a world where even the smallest customer service breach could end up on a review website and damage your business, the ability to deliver good, consistent customer service is vital to the survival of your business. Yet customer service is not simple or straight forward and requires three elements to achieve success.

Attribution: Pixabay - Alexas_Fotos

Customer Service Culture

Some parts of the world, and some companies, have a natural customer service culture. I remember being invited by German friends to a German club to watch Germany play in the World Cup. I ordered a German beer but was only given a standard glass, not a proper German beer stein. A German person who I never met, who did not work for the German club nor was even a member came over to me and apologised for the lack of proper German beer glasses.

Attribution: Pixabay - Alexas_Fotos

This sort of customer service culture doesn't just exist if you simply state that "The customer is number 1". It has to be seen in everything. Decisions are always discussed in term of how they impact on the customer, customer happiness is put ahead of the staffs biases and people learn to take customer service values to heart.

I have worked in plenty of organisations where you can get in trouble for helping a customer too much, where the break room is full of stories complaining about customers and decision makers always put themselves before the customer. When you are at war with your customer, then dealing the customer is a chore, and the problems just seem to spiral down.

Customers as well do not particularly like being disrespected. If you make them feel that you don't care about them, their first response is to start looking for alternative suppliers.

Customer Service Systems

As important as customer service values are, you need systems that support the customer. Often customer service representatives are unable to fulfill a request they are unable to pass the inquiry up to other people who can solve the problem. Or worse yet, if they do pass it up, then the problem will just be dismissed without being resolved. The front line of your business should not be left isolated and exposed, but be part of a system that delivers to the customer.

Attribution: Pixabay - geralt

One of the most important customer service systems to have in place is complaints. Many organisations, especially smaller businesses, have no approach to handling complaints. This means that problems over escalate. While with a system the complaint can be turned around and often that customer can become intensely loyal based on the service received.

For smaller businesses, systems don't have to formal and certainly shouldn't be rigid. It is fairly easy to see where a system needs to be put in place, it is wherever there is a conflict among staff or point of contention with customers.

A common example is the conflict between sales and service staff. Often sales will promise things to the customer that can't fulfilled. But they often have little choice because there is no system in place for them to find out what can be done and how much it will cost.

Customer Service Skills

Systems and culture are great, but you also need personal skills to deliver customer service. Anyone who works in customer service and how doesn't possess customer service skills will quickly become angry and dis-empowered.

Attribution: Pixabay - geralt

Customer service are simple approaches, such as using positive language when dealing with a problem, empathising when something goes wrong making requests of the customer that are polite.

You might think this should be natural, but I see people shouting at customers, turning little problems into huge fights or simply dismissing a common request as if it is impossible.

The problem comes from the fact that there are so many different little skills that need to be applied at the right and in the right way. In addition, many people learn what might be termed coping skills. Techniques that result in short-term gains but long-term loss. A classic example is where technical staff dismiss requests as impossible. It doesn't take too long before a lot of pressure is being applied to make them possible.

Bringing it all together

Great customer service means bringing all these things together. Good customer service is rarely an accident, and in the wrong organisational culture, customer service is often punished. I have actually thanked the managers of some companies for the service provided by their staff only to have that manager angrily state "Why were they doing that, it is not their job."

Attribution: Pixabay - OpenClips

The place to start is with skills, then begin to put systems in place that help your customer service staff and finally topping it all off by consistently building a culture that puts the customer first.

The pay off is not just more money, and happier customers. The real pay comes about when your relations with your customers are much better. There is stress, conflict and anxiety as you now providing a better service.

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