It almost seems cliché to complain about the state of Customer service out there in the universe. It’s bad. In some cases, it’s very bad.
Just yesterday I was visiting a department store looking for a computer cable. I have to admit that while I can hold my own with technology, sometimes it gets frustrating – and this was one of those days. All I needed was a magic cord to bridge the gap from VGA to HDMI and so off I went to find a techno Sherpa to help out. Let’s just say that those in the electronics section knew as much about technology as they did Customer service – which was absolutely NOTHING by the way.
After pointing me to cables that would have helped my situation about as much as a hair dryer or tire iron might have, they called for a manager. After four attempts they connected with their manager on the two-way radio and were promptly informed that the manager was “busy.” Apparently it was inventory day, so she would be unable to assist. The poor associate I was dealing with looked back at me with that deer-in-the-headlights look that told me all too clearly that I was out of luck.
I thanked the associate and left. I just left the store.
The good news is that one visit to another store specializing in electronics solved my issue and saved the day.
I am almost 100% sure that we have all had “those” types of experiences – and I’m sure we’ve all had enough fantastic experiences to show that some businesses are getting it right.
So what are you to do if you are a Leader who is struggling with Customer service? Buckle up and read on – here are seven things you can do to course correct your Service Mission:
SET YOUR EXPECTATIONS. Too often Front Line Associates have no idea what great service looks like. Often, if you are employing those who have never had a job before, there is good reason for them not knowing this. How would they? If you are a high school sophomore what do you care about great service? You could also be employing those who aren’t at the top of their profession and consequently aren’t very good at what they do. That doesn’t mean you should give up – you should make sure that your Customer service mission is crystal clear.
TRAIN LIKE YOU MEAN IT. Webinars, electronic learning courses, and pocket reference cards are all great starts – but they aren’t going to get you where you need to go. You have to take the time to train from day one and instill that service culture. And by the way, don’t lament that your company’s Customer service training is bloodless and terrible – take it to the next level and use your passion to inspire. Let’s face it, for the most part they all say the same thing – it comes down to you to translate that vision into success.
STOP HIRING TERRIBLE FOLKS. Let’s face it, it is so much easier to drive great service when you have a great team. Hire the right folks at the right time for the right role. Don’t fear the blank line on the schedule and settle for the next warm body that walks in. Use every resource you have during the interview process and make sure that you ask real questions during the interview. Talk less, listen more, and focus on “what would you do” type questions. Use colleagues to get a second opinion on candidates and if you have doubts, don’t hire the person.
SET A GREAT EXAMPLE. Your team will follow your lead, so don’t ever think that they aren’t watching you as to how they should behave. Your actions matter and will be emulated by your team. Think about the manager in my above story – is it any wonder that the Front Line Associates with whom I was dealing were so woefully unprepared? Leaders attract those who have like values and work ethic – and then folks fall into lock step with their boss’s actions. Note that I said “actions.” Most often they don’t pay nearly as much attention to what you say as what you do. Set a great example and show them your commitment to amazing Customer service by delivering it to every Guest.
COACH GREAT BEHAVIORS. When Leaders are deeply involved in their daily business and know what is happening, they are poised to coach and train in the moment. This idea of OWNING YOUR DIRT can lead to fantastic results when managers are visible and available in the locations they manage. Folks stand up straighter when their Leaders are around, and Customers never have to look very far for those who spend a majority of their time walking their spaces. Don’t be an absentee landlord.
RECOGNIZE AND CELEBRATE GREAT SERVICE. The other benefit of being out in yours business every day is that you can see great service in action. Folks will repeat what you reinforce, and there is no better way than to praise great service. Whether you are giving out verbal praise, thank you notes, movie tickets, or other spot awards, the impact is so meaningful. If you ignore the great work your team does each day, they will quickly give up.
LISTEN TO YOUR TEAM. Engaged teams, who know what great service looks like, readily share new ideas. Those who deal with Guests on the front lines know best about service challenges and how to correct them. Listen intently to these amazing ideas and make sure you take them into consideration. Even if you can’t implement them all, your great listening and communication will ensure that folks continue to share ideas.
Now these seven items can’t live in a vacuum. They are a part of a larger structure in which you value your team and keep innovation top of mind. But if you find yourself in an organization that has service challenges, start with these seven items and work from there. Once you have these under control, you can move on to what might be next.
Until next time, take care and treat your Customers like Cherished Friends.
Tony Johnson Customer Service Expert | Author | Trainer | Speaker
Check out my new book: RECIPE FOR SERVICE Now Available on Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Recipe-Service-Inspire-Deliver-Customer/dp/0986391204
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