Sept. 3, 2014 – When I’m asked to speak at conferences on how managers can boost business, they often assume we’re going to focus on gaining new customers. Ironically, that’s the last thing we should focus on.
Neglecting existing customers to chase new business is akin to gathering water in the proverbial leaky bucket. We can exhaust ourselves trying to collect more water when we’d be further ahead by simply fixing the holes. The more sustainable approach to growing business is ensuring existing customers are so thrilled that they’ll not only return but also recommend you to new potential customers. The challenge is that, without proper attention, customer satisfaction often atrophies. To ensure that doesn’t happen in your organization, consider these top seven ways managers and staff let customer service slide.
1. Assuming customers notice good service
They don’t. Customers are too busy and distracted by their mobile devices to notice when service is merely good. Employees need to provide service that’s remarkable. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean working harder. It just means choosing words more carefully. Compare “Do you want us to deliver it?” with “Would it be helpful if we delivered that for you to save you a trip?” The second phrase didn’t take more work, yet the wording made the offer more noticeable.
2. Establishing Customer Service as a department
If you set up a customer-service department, it by default means other employees will assume that taking care of customers isn’t their job. That means employees end up redirecting customer concerns when they should be addressing problems themselves.
3. Measuring sales versus satisfaction
It’s tempting for managers to evaluate the business by focusing on monthly or annual revenues. That’s fine for measuring how the organization has been doing up till now. But the factor that determines how the business will do in the future is not sales; it’s customer satisfaction. Sales measures success today. Customer satisfaction predicts how you’ll do tomorrow.
4. Rewarding longevity over service
It’s fine to have service awards for long-term employees. However, length of service isn’t nearly as important as quality of service. Customer-service cultures that thrive are those where recognition is focused more on internal and external customer service than on just showing up.
5. Training focuses on technical versus interpersonal skills
The term “soft skill” somehow implies that customer communication skills aren’t nearly as substantive as technical skills. The irony is that customers take for granted that employees have basic technical skills. What customers do notice are the interpersonal and communication skills employees use to interact with them. Technical skills deliver the work. Soft skills create the customer relationship.
6. Lack of recovery skills
When customer service training consists of providing customers with information, performing transactions and being polite, that skill set will take the employee as far as the nearest foul-up. If employees aren’t trained on how to interact with customers when things go wrong, then they’re not fully trained. Ironically, customers don’t notice (or appreciate) your service when everything goes well. The time when they actually notice and judge you is when things go wrong. That’s why, of all the customer-service skills you can provide, those that get you the fastest return on investment are recovery skills.
7. Lack of reinforcement
Without regular reminders and reinforcement, employees revert back to old habits of focusing more on transactions than on customers. That’s why we advocate a three-phase approach to building a customer-focused culture. Phase 1 is conducting a customized customer-service seminar – including recovery skills – that we film to serve as an orientation for new hires. In Phase 2 we provide employees with monthly bulletins and biweekly tips. And finally, for Phase 3, we teach managers how to stage their own regular CAST (Customer Service Team) meetings so they can continue to train employees in-house and adapt to changing customer needs. That way you’ll convert a one-time customer-service training event into an ongoing continuous improvement process.
Jeff Mowatt is a customer-service strategist, award-winning speaker, and bestselling author. For more tips, training tools or to inquire about engaging Jeff for your team, visit www.JeffMowatt.com .