Many customers hold the Internet in the palm of their hands, making it easier than ever for them to search comparable products. Your customer service experience, on the other hand, is harder to replicate. Providing a strong, supporting foundation for your employees — who represent your brand to customers — can build the kind of stellar customer experience that develops loyalty.
Lead by Example
If a manager talks about employees behind their backs, thinks of staff as a “resource” instead of people or refuses to answer questions, it’s hard to imagine how employees can develop a strong customer service mindset! Modeling the empathy and respect you want employees to show customers illustrates that you live by the company’s values.
Strong management helps businesses get the most value out of training programs, as well. In a report on European businesses presented by the American Society for Training & Development, 69 percent of employees said their managers were involved in helping them implement lessons learned in training. Following through on a daily basis is worth more than an annual workshop that doesn’t translate into improvements in an employee’s workday.
Provide Communication and Training
Some aspects of customer service are common sense, like answering questions and keeping a polite, friendly attitude. But many elements of customer service require training before employees fully understand what’s expected. Should an employee interrupt a customer to answer a ringing phone? How should employees handle chatty customers who keep them from other tasks?
Customer service training can begin almost before an employee is hired. Including customer service skills in the job description, and asking questions about hypothetical customer scenarios during the interview, communicates that this is a top priority. After an employee is hired, try some of these customer service training ideas:
- Make sure employees learn the appropriate phone greeting on their first day.
- Write a succinct list of customer service standards. Post it on the wall or make it one of the first pages in the employee handbook (to make sure employees read it).
- Train employees to know the details of the product or service they’re discussing. You don’t want an employee to confuse “25 percent more product” with “25 percent off.”
- Offer active listening tips, and consider writing some prompts for what to say in a difficult scenario. You don’t need to write an overly detailed script. A few sample responses can help employees keep their cool when dealing with an emotional customer.
- Have new hires “shadow” a more seasoned worker to see excellent customer service in action.
Boost Employee Engagement
As the old saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” Similarly, you can hire top talent for your company, but their inner “thirst” to help the company succeed will make your staff go above and beyond for you.
Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report for 2017 says only one-third of employees are engaged at work. Meanwhile, numerous studies link employee engagement with positive customer experience. So how do you boost engagement in your office?
- Focus on growth. Employees who don’t see career development opportunities are even more likely to leave a job than employees hoping for higher pay. Career development is also the top “alternative” work perk employers plan to offer.
- Connect their role to the big picture. A company that prioritizes customer service needs every employee on board, even if they don’t directly interact with customers. Try using a customer journey map to illustrate how every employee helps improve customer loyalty.
- Open a running dialogue. Adobe got rid of annual performance reviews in 2012. Their check-in system encourages managers and employees to have more frequent, informal discussions to offer more timely feedback.
Give Them the Tools They Need
It’s challenging for employees to provide exceptional customer service when their technology is lagging behind the times. After a long day of dealing with outdated, sluggish computers and registers (and maybe a few rude customers), any employee’s smile might wilt.
Periodically, take stock of the workplace environment and technology. Do visiting clients have a comfortable place to sit? Are employees reporting a lot of issues with computers crashing? Do customers grumble that the registers glitch with chip cards and don’t take Apple Pay? (Hint: We can help with that.) Make the work environment a clean, functional, cheerful place to be. Chances are, you’ll see the ROI in employee attitude and customer satisfaction.
Is the customer “always right” at your business? What balance of formal and informal customer service programs delivered the best results for you? Chime in below with your comments.