In just over a decade technological advances have changed the way organizations conduct business. And, along with these changes comes a rise in customer expectations. Customers now demand quality in their customer experiences. And it is this, that highlights a broader reality of the fact that the basis of competition is shifting from what companies sell to how they interact with their customers.
In a previous blog I had made reference to this changing phenomenon by highlighting a recent study conducted by the global strategy giant – McKinsey & Company. In it, John Hayes, the Chief Marketing Officer of American Express, said “We are moving from a monologue to a dialogue”.
As a small or medium business, you are better positioned to take advantage of this shift in customer approach. Being more nimble and better at “listening” to the customer, your customer service can be far superior to that of your larger competitors.
But here are a few insights that can help you understand the common barriers to great customer service. Almost all of these barriers arise from the basic instincts of human beings. You can acknowledge these and weave them into the tapestry of your customer service culture, to produce an outstanding differentiator for yourself in the market place.
1. It is not instinctive
As human beings our natural instincts are not really geared towards providing customers with the experience they desire. When put in front of an angry, belligerent or upset person our natural instinct is to fight or flight the danger in front of us. Neither is acceptable in customer service as a result of which employees in customer facing situations struggle against their own instincts to ensure the customer goes back in a happy frame of mind. Customer facing employees must be trained to see their interactions not as an attack on them so that they do not bring their instinctive reaction to the conversation.
2. Focus on the “can” instead of the “cannot”
The majority of human beings tend to become very defensive in a confrontational situation. Most interaction with an aggrieved customer border on confrontation and this instinct kicks in with great force. A lot of time tends to get spent on justifying the action and the “cannot” instead of focusing on what “can” be done to resolve the issue at hand expeditiously.
Often, customer service employees hear the same inquiries over a period of time and lose interest in answering them individually. Instead, they tend to become FAQ machines are read policies or processes to the customer verbatim. Customers do not want to hear policies, but want a problem solved or want help in taking the right decision. Successful customer service employees answer each inquiry individually and drive customers to the right course of action using standard policies and processes as relevant information to ensure clarity and a successful outcome.
4. Do not deflect responsibility
Over centuries human beings have developed the uncanny knack to deflect responsibility for things they perceive they have not done. You have to train your customer service employees to understand that, in the eyes of the aggrieved customer, they are the company. They must accept responsibility for the bad customer experience even if they are not directly responsible for the issue that aggrieved the customer. Along with this, you must ensure your customer service employees have the ability of making things right for the customer.
I have already pointed out the hazards of multi-tasking in a previous blog. Much has been written about the negative effects of multi-tasking and the directed attention fatigue it causes. Unfortunately, customer service employees often get asked to multi task in their jobs. This forces them to become slower in their responses and make mistakes. It will be your number one priority, as business owner, to ensure that the focus of the customer facing employee is only on the aggrieved customer and the employee is not asked to multi-task in any manner.
6. It’s hard to be friendly
It is expected of customer service employees to be friendly. But often, even the best of them, do not feel friendly on particular days. In such situations it takes a great effort to outwardly project a friendly feeling. This effort can leave our employees physically and mentally exhausted. As a business owner, you have many tools at your disposal to ensure that the employee profile of your customer service team fits what the personality required of them. And, even after all this, when the employee does have an off-day, there must be enough adaptive processes in place to ensure that the employee concerned is not forced to go through the job to the likely detriment of your business.
So, in a nutshell, as a small or medium business owner, start by embracing the fact that customer service is difficult. You will have to work at it every day, as an organization, to ensure that your customers are served at the highest level. If you keep the above insights in mind and work your process around them, you will have nothing but the key to success.