As a trusted advisor in the recruiting industry, part of my role is to introduce you to other experts in their fields. This month, Sally Oxenhandler (yes, my sister-in-law) who spent the majority of her career with State Government, always in communications is our guest. Before retiring, her latest roles were Communications Manager, then Communications Director with Missouri Department of Transportation – both positions assigned responsibility as head of Customer Service.
How Does Customer Service Influence Your Bottom Line?
If you asked five people to define what it means to provide outstanding customer service, you’d likely get five different answers. Why? Because customer service is personal, both for the giver and the receiver. Expectations and, therefore, demands vary from consumer to consumer, based on a myriad of factors, from real-life experiences to cultural perspectives. What can’t be disputed, however, is the important role customer service plays in defining an organization’s brand, establishing its reputation and determining its financial health, both positive and negative.
We can all tell dozens of stories about times we’ve received poor service from a company, individual, organization or service. Though probably fewer in number, we can also recount instances of being the recipient of a great client experience. So what are some common factors that determine success or failure in meeting customer demands and expectations?
One of the most frequent mistakes companies commit is failing to make customer service a priority. They mistakenly think it’s a given that their employees will know the right things to say and the proper way to treat their patrons. On the flip side, successful companies understand that customer service is everyone’s job, not just those who have direct interaction with those they serve. They also recognize that a culture of customer service doesn’t just happen; it takes commitment, resources and hard work.
How Do I Ensure I Have Great Customer Service?
While basic, here are some key ways to ensure that providing outstanding customer service is not only a priority, but an expected and accepted way of doing business.
Each and every member of the organization from the top to the bottom should know what is expected of them when it comes to customer service. A company cannot expect intuitiveness on the part of staff members. Customer service views must be established in written policy, shared with new employees and revisited routinely.
Customer service functions should be defined in employee job specifications, with frequent feedback on how well employees are meeting their goals. Excellent customer service skills should be rewarded and poor performance addressed.
Notice we didn’t say “offer.” Customer training should not be an option. Whether provided in-house or by an outside entity, initial training should be mandatory and followed by regular refresher courses.
Lead by Example
Nothing quashes employee enthusiasm and brings down morale more than leaders who talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk. Make sure your words and actions mirror your operation’s customer service expectations.
Measure and Publish Results
You’ve likely heard the old adage, “What gets measured gets done.” While the origin and speaker are subject to debate, the meaning is clear: measuring how well you are meeting, exceeding or missing established customer service goals helps keep your operations on track and moving in a positive direction. Results should be shared, published and reviewed to determine areas for improvement or correction. Doing so establishes a culture of transparency and trust and allows employees to see how they contribute to the process.
As we head into the holiday season, customer service awareness, expectations and demands are heightened as consumption rises. Ensuring you have a solid customer service culture in place will positively influence your operations and bottom line.
Want to learn more? Let me know.