Raise the Bar in Customer Service

Customer Service is not going anywhere as long as companies have customers. Businesses are realizing the importance of using service to garner support and also stand out from the crowd. This is in addition to the given that a company’s products are good. Every business and person, almost on a daily basis, interacts with customer service representatives and it is expected that they will receive great service each time. However, this is far removed from the truth and very often customers are disappointed. Companies must realize that it is vital to raise the bar in customer service if they expect to remain in business successfully. They must strive to offer the best service to current and potential customers and teach their staff the criticality of great service coupled with relationship and skill building techniques.

For companies to effectively raise the bar in customer service they must start first will delivering great service to their own employees. Leaders and managers must exemplify this kind of service through their daily interactions if they want this behaviour to be reinforced in all staff and especially the customer facing staff. If employees are treated shabbily, perceive their leadership as being rude and discourteous to them and customers, this is the behaviour they will emulate.

Despite a company’s sincerest desire to raise the bar in customer service, there will always be times when not every interaction with customers will be smooth sailing. Given the human factor and technology not always holding up, occasionally things will spin out of control. However, even in these stressful moments it is vital for companies and their representatives to maintain their composure, remain polite and are completely transparent with their customers. A customer is the person who has invested time and resources in your company and this is the least that you can offer them. Would it be worth risking the goodwill and revenue from your regular and profitable customers and possibly from their friends and associates due to your unwillingness to set things right and raise the bar in customer service? Everyone will agree that it is not. The fact is that in the literal sense it pays to treat your customers well and another fact is that if gaining competitive advantage is what you seek, then you would need to raise the bar in customer service to treat them even better.

There’s no point being part of the herd or getting lost in the milieu of companies after working so hard.

– Start on the inside. Establish rules and some core customer service fundamentals for everyone to follow starting from the top most levels to the last. Make the use of common courtesies, like please, thank you and a smile, compulsory and set down the expectation that delivering what is promised is an absolute must. Establishing a rudimentary customer service bar is the beginning of the effort to raise it.

– Simply setting down standards is not sufficient. To ensure that employees understand the company’s commitment towards customer service, provide them with on-going and consistent training to develop the right skills and attitude towards service. Delighting a customer may not be something that comes naturally to all and hence it is the onus of the company to instil this feeling in their employees. Make the training programs interactive, fun and truly memorable learning experiences if you expect employees to use the learning in their day to day tasks.

– Post providing the training, ensure that the employees are empowered to do whatever it takes to please the customers. They would be afraid to go the extra mile for the customers if they feel they would be breaking or bending policies. Training and constant coaching to know how much to stretch will help the staff to know that bending a rule would translate to a loyal customer base.

– Leaders set the path over which others walk down and hence they must lead by example. If they deal courteously and effectively with customers even when the situation is tedious, the leaders of the organization would be setting a find example for others to emulate. The converse is also true. It depends on the managers and leaders to set the tone of the customer service and be instrumental to raise the bar in customer service. Also as mentioned, your own internal customers – the employees – must be treated with respect by the management. They must have the right to voice their opinions and know that those suggestions would be listened to seriously. Creating a positive and congenial work culture will keep employees motivated and also bring down staff attrition. Happy employees will ensure that the customers are happy too.

– While training and coaching are an integral part of great customer service, there would still be times when the smooth operations are stopped in their tracks due to a glitch. The reasons could be numerous but what would be important is to remain in control and have a positive frame of mind. Errors happen and it would be best to tackle the situation and move forward. The only zero tolerance zones are the basic customer service standards that must never be flouted. Even if it is the fault of the customer, beware of being rude, shouting at them and even telling them that they are wrong. This behaviour will most definitely boomerang and create ugly situations for your company. Customers are becoming more vocal and platforms like social media give them the grounds to vent and an irate customer can cause some serious damage by their comments.

Instead of getting into the loop of comments and counter comments, just practice how to raise the bar in customer service by walking the talk, providing your employees with the requisite skills and equipment to serve customers and building a sustainable customer service culture. Switch your company’s attention from being internally focussed to being customer service minded. The entire organization will need to follow it and ultimately everyone lands up being a winner since the customers will be happy and delighted.
The truth is that now every aspect of business and the economy is in acceleration mode. This holds true for customer expectations as well. They know all too well that companies have access to information and resources that can be used to provide almost instantaneous responses and resolutions. The smart mobile devices have ensured that customers are on the go and they expect that the companies they do business with are also in the same mode. There is no plausible reason for not being ‘out there’ for the customers – they know they are the life-blood of any company and are using this advantage to the hilt. Companies have no choice but to comply. The ones that are complying are forging ahead and those lagging behind are in serious danger of fading away.

Customers have changed. They have changed how they communicate. Buying behaviours and patterns have changed and their overall expectations of how they wish to be treated have also changed. They are in control over the method of communicating with customers and can choose from the plethora of modes of communication. When serving customers, it is vital to know the customer’s preferences and aim to raise the bar in customer service via each of the distinct communication channels. This should translate to seamless and hassle free multi-channel communication for customers and also being able to provide simple and effective websites and company product applications. When you raise the bar in customer service, your company is effectively telling its customers that they can expect to get the level of service they deserve and hope to receive. This is perhaps the most ideal way to deal with the customer of today – empowered, vocal, impatient, more efficient and more attuned to the happenings around. When this ‘breed’ of customers is delighted by the service provided to them they don’t shy away from promoting these businesses. Customer brand ambassadors are not made in a day. This happens when companies focus on customers and raise the bar in customer service.

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