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An ‘App’ For Customer Service?

June 19, 2015

What Is Going On?
While the incessant nail-biting over the economy continues, where’s the renewed vigor to retain current customers and get new ones? It seems like unless there’s ‘an app for that,’ or a Facebook page we’ve forgotten the basics.

I’m out and about as a consumer and I am discouraged at the response to this suppressed economy. Day to day, I get poor service both in person and on the telephone. It’s as though service providers have hoisted the white flag of surrender instead of answering the call to action that today’s contagion of customer ‘tight-fistedness’ demands.

What else puzzles me is I’m seeing more and more ‘mature’ workers in front of the public – the ones who grew up with better service – completely checked out about what they are doing.

What Works: Simple, But Not Easy
Successful service leaders across a variety of industries build powerful programs upon three fundamental components: Standards, Awareness and Accountability.

They make explicit commitments that articulate newly defined standards, keeping those standards present in everyday work and holding each team member accountable.

Standards — Foundation of Service
Whether you are tuning-up your performance standards or starting from a blank whiteboard, a fundamental objective is to blur the line between “what people do” (operations) and “how they do it” (service standards). Blending these in this manner is a clear statement that just “doing the task” isn’t enough and sets the stage for higher levels of accountability.

The leaders in service are clear about their interpretation of service and can articulate it in a way that is a) understood by all employees, b) minimizes “outside of the standard” interpretations, is c) enforceable by management and d) supports employee self-management.

Awareness — Orientation & Reinforcement
Extensive standards and process-analysis work becomes the rudder for determining both the nature and frequency of ongoing training.

As you apply operational sensitivity to blueprint specific content areas that necessitate training design and development, carefully evaluate the delivery media. Everything from self-study/reference to classroom to electronic interactive and multi-media may be options to reach your staff with the most impact.

Each employee must understand the standards and be trained to deliver that service within the context of those standards before improved customer service can be consistently delivered. A continuous training effort encourages improvements and employee independence.

Accountability — Closing the Loop
Clear standards and a rigorous commitment to awareness simplifies managing Service personnel. Once adopted, conversations about performance can be streamlined and more productive for management and employees. Also, once the service personnel have agreed to the standards, opportunities for peer management become a possibility.

Once the standards are declared and employees agree to uphold the standards through impeccable service practices, “deviations from standard” are easily recognized by management and staff. Corrective action is clearer and more streamlined.

And You’re Waiting For…What?
There’s no indication that the clouds will part soon and sloppy service will once again be rewarded. In fact, it wouldn’t matter if they did. This is as good a time as any to use impeccable service to steal your competition’s lunch…AND EAT IT IN FRONT OF THEM!!!

Mark Morton is “Project Master” at (Don’t Worry) It’s Handled…an expert resource helping small- to medium-sized businesses thrive in the toughest markets.

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