Ask business owners and senior managers how their organization differentiates itself from the competition and you will often hear them say, "excellent customer service." The unfortunate reality facing most businesses today is that although the company owner and senior managers understand the value of quality customer service the message often fails to reach the front line employees. The reason the message may not be heard is due to lack of policies, lack of procedures, lack of expectations, and lack of rewards.
How do employees learn customer service?
In order for employees to understand the organization's commitment to quality customer service perhaps they must experience it from their company. Their experience with your company begins in the interview process by being asked how they define and demonstrate customer service. Employees will also get a sense of the company's expectations for customer experience in their orientation and on-the-job training. When the employee arrives on his or her first day should the manager greet him or her, provide a tour of the facility, and give proper introductions to co-workers and related departments? Is the manager prepared with the new-hire paper work, and is a mentor assigned to train the employee? These interactions can set the tone for the employment relationship. In addition, providing a new employee with an accurate job description and an employee handbook can be critical in establishing the standards and criteria to which the employee will be held accountable.
As your new employee begins to interact with his or her co-workers and other departments it is important that the customer service culture continues to be reinforced. For example, the new employee should recognize that all departments share information and are supportive of one another in resolving customer concerns. Managers should also check in with the new employee to ensure he or she has the adequate tools to perform the job, as well as inquire whether any additional training needed. Often employees are not adequately trained on the resources available to them, or how to deal with unhappy customers. It is vital that business owners and managers regularly ask their employees what is hindering them from providing excellent service to their customers. The feedback that front line employees can provide an organization can be instrumental in identifying the internal obstacles affecting how customers are served.
Lastly, acknowledge and reward the behaviors that align with the customer service culture. Review the organization's performance appraisal forms to confirm customer service is listed as an area of focus. Determine if data can be gathered and measured from customers and if an incentive can be developed to motivate employees. Consider supplying managers with thank-you notes and encourage them to provide positive feedback for a job well done. And continuously monitor the business's productivity goals to determine if they are competing with customer service objectives.
An organization's customer service culture is unique, as it is developed and perpetuated through the policies and procedures to which it holds its staff accountable, and through the employee behaviors that are rewarded.
ACTION ITEM – QUESTIONS FOR THE MANAGEMENT TEAM
- How much does it cost our business to acquire a new customer?
- What is the first impression we want our customers to have of our business?
- What is the first impression we want our new employee to have of our business?
- How have our employees been trained to provide excellent service to our customers?
- How have employees been trained to resolve customer concerns and complaints?
- Have we provided our employees with the proper training, tools, and resources to provide service and problem solve?
- What is our ideal customer experience?
- What is the extra step we would want our employees to take to ensure customer satisfaction?
- Are our employees treating their co-workers as internal customers?
- Do our departments share information with each other?
- Do we treat our employees as well as our customers?
- Do we have goals that compete with or hinder our ability to service customers?
- Do we ask our employees what tools or training they need to perform well?
- Do we ask our employees if they have suggestions for improving our procedures or systems?
- How do we reward our employees who meet or exceed our customer service standards?
- Do our managers regularly provide our employees with feedback?
About the Author
Amanda Gee serves as a Human Resources Consultant with Paychex HR Solutions. She has over ten years of human resources experience. In her current role she supports small to medium size businesses in the development of human resources policies and procedures, as well as consults on employee and organization concerns. Amanda also has her Master's Degree in Human Resources and Organizational Development, her SPHR certification, and LAH license.