Empowering your staff to support customers

Hands JoinedSuccessful organisations recognise that in order to provide great customer service, they need to give the same level of attention and focus to their employees, as they do to their customers.

Behaviour breeds behaviour. So to increase the probability of achieving customer satisfaction, you need employees who value and are highly skilled in customer service.

Research shows that employees in sales and customer service roles who are emotionally intelligent are better equipped to provide high levels of customer service. However, providing your employees with the right support and environment will help you achieve a successful business. Here are some tips:

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  • Treat staff as you treat your customers
    Be transparent in all your communications, keeping them fully informed of changes, respecting their views and opinions and placing a high value of the work of customer service staff. This could also involve letting your staff sample your service and products, in recognition of their hard work and commitment.
  • Pay attention to those who don’t serve customers directly
    Chances are, if they’re not serving a customer, they’re serving someone who is, and these people are their ‘internal’ customers.

    Are they focused on the needs of the external customer and supporting those that directly interact with them? Or are they giving priority and assigning more value to internal processes and tasks?

  • Build a team culture where everyone recognises their role in providing great customer service
    Every team member is a link in the service chain, meaning that it only takes one team member to break or spoil the customer experience.

    See our tips on building high performance teams.

  • Look for and recognise outstanding customer service
    A genuine ‘thank you’ or ‘well done’ goes a long way in recognising an employee’s valuable contribution to great customer service.

    A simple gift that the employee will value and can be given to the employee within 48 hours of demonstrating the outstanding service works best. For example, a gift voucher, or a bunch of flowers, that the line manager can give out to say ‘thank you’.

    Consider using an award scheme where individuals, colleagues and customers can nominate those who demonstrate exceptional levels of customer service. Make the nomination process easy, fast, accessible and appropriate to the way your employees and customers communicate with you e.g. notice board, daily briefings, web site, intranet, voice-mail and email.

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  • Recruit and measure performance around customer-orientated behaviours
    Do this from the initial recruitment stage, through to the annual performance appraisal. Are you measuring the right customer orientated behaviours and attitudes that achieve high levels of customer service within your selection process?
  • Use selection techniques appropriate to the job role
    These might include telephone screening for call handlers, or a customer scenario role play for handling a complaint.

    Alternatively you might consider a customer request, for those providing face-to-face customer service, or a spelling/grammar test, for those responding to a high volume of customer emails and on-line questions.

  • Set measurable objectives around creating/maintaining exceptional customer service
    Remember to cascade them across the organisation, so that everyone can see how they are all contributing to your business strategy and goals, including where they could support each other.
  • Review individual performance regularly
    Undertake performance reviews, not just during the annual appraisal. Give feedback about what’s going well, as well as providing coaching for areas needing development.

    See our tips on performance appraisals.

  • Check the diversity of your employees to see if they reflect your customer base
    Your employees are likely to ‘connect’ and ‘engage’ more readily with your customers if they fully appreciate their background, values and culture. Where this is not practical, provide them with some diversity awareness training to really help them appreciate your customer needs.
  • Hold daily briefing sessions

    This allows employees communicating with customers to ensure they remain up to date with the business products and services. A standing 10 to 15 minute briefing will suffice, enabling you to review any service issues from the day before.

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  • Have regular customer service sessions with staff
    They’ll have lots of ideas on how things could be improved. Encourage them to think of what can be done to provide the ‘wow factor’. Use the creativity of the group to brainstorm and think outside the box for less obvious suggestions. Recognise and reward the best ideas.

    See our tips on developing creativity.

  • Coach team members
    This will help to bring the highest level of performance and commitment to those looking after the customer.

Next: Developing a customer service training programme

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