Customer service is like exercise – do it right, and you see results. It’s simple. But there’s nothing easy or convenient about it. If it was, everyone would have six-pack abs and a stellar customer-focused culture. Want to pass the customer service fitness test? Here are a few drills to get your business into shape.
PICK THE RIGHT ROUTINE
Not every organization is the same. Choose a customer focus strategy unique to yours. With personal fitness – high impact exercise works well for some, and not others – your choice depends on your body’s current condition and your goals. Likewise, your customer service strategy depends on your brand, industry and the mission, vision, and values of your organization. Include your team (and your clients) in defining what the customer experience should look like, what the expected standards of service will be, and what specifics everyone can commit to and be held accountable to uphold. A well-defined routine creates clarity and drives performance.
PULL OUT THE MEASURING TAPE
Set and measure your service fitness goals before you begin. Then, measure frequently over time. To get a good measurement:
- Choose goals that are realistic, but big enough to cause your organization to stretch
- Be precise so that everyone is clear about expectations
- Chart your measurements, so you know when to course-correct or celebrate successes
In both the human body, and the body of an organization this is true – what happens inside eventually shows up on the outside. So, measure employee engagement. Ensure that everyone is taking good care of each other inside your company (with internal customers) so that your customers reap the benefits of a service-minded culture.
Remember, a measuring tape around your waist doesn’t lie. It reveals your current reality. So do service scores – they provide a realistic gauge to help you reinforce what’s working and adjust what’s not.
Accurate measurements are crucial. Service breakdowns happen when you measure the wrong things. For example, customer service will suffer if a call center measures success only by the speed of a call without factoring in the quality of the conversations.
DO YOUR WARM UPS
There are consequences to skipping warm ups before running a race. Similarly, customer interactions that start cold can end permanently. Every customer interaction deserves a warm start. In person, it’s the friendly smile and greeting. On social media platforms – it’s the ease and speed of finding what they want, the respectful tone of the chat, tweet or email conversations. Warm ups prepare customers for positive experiences. Every point of customer contact (like the speed of a response, the condition of your parking lot or the cleanliness of your restrooms) counts toward the credibility of your brand.
If your heart rate jumps too high during an exercise routine, you need to cool down a bit. Likewise, monitoring your customer’s (and your) mood will help you know when a cool down is in order. It may be counter-intuitive, but when a customer is angry, the best way to cool down tempers is to encourage them to vent. Thank them for complaining, and mean it. Most customers prefer to switch to a competitor rather than face the discomfort of complaining. When you resolve a problem in their favor, they’re more likely to become long-term loyal clientele.
Sometimes, it’s you who needs to cool down. Certain customers can take every ounce of self-control to handle skillfully. Rely on some time-tested stress-busters to stay on course. Some popular choices:
- Pause (take a few deep breaths) and think before saying something you’ll regret
- Have another service provider take over when you don’t have the inner resources to continue
- Focus on self-comforting phrases like “I can handle this,” “This is only a blip in the radar,” or “This customer is angry at the situation, not me personally.”
- Vent to an appropriate person inside the company when you need support to regain your composure.
It takes practice, experience and exposure to coaching, feedback and training to reach a higher levels of competency. Sometimes an outside source can offer a fresh perspective to uncover areas that are out of alignment.
The greatest champions in the world have coaches to encourage and challenge them to excel. Champion service teams do what champion athletes do – strive to continuously improve. Improvement can take the form of reading books, blogs, and industry news. Consulting with experts and taking live or online skill enhancement training, like The Customer Service Roadmap can inspire leaders and teams to excel. Create a continuous-learning environment so you and your team continue to take smart risks, and push yourselves to keep your service muscles strong.
What about you?
What actions have helped you to pass the customer focus fitness test?
Marilyn Suttle is a customer experience expert, professional conference speaker, and coauthor of the bestselling book, Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan. Marilyn delivers customer service and communication skills success strategy keynotes and workshops, to help her audiences create strong, productive relationships in every area of life. For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.whosyourgladys.com.
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