A Customer Service Programme Your Team Can Own

Coach your team with a customer service programme they can own By Ralph Brown Skillset New Zealand. Published by Fenman, London How’s this for a deal? In this article we’ll look at coaching your team members in customer service, but it comes with some additional benefits for them and for your organisation. While they’re involved in the customer service programme, they’ll be developing their communication, analytical, and problem-solving skills. It’s a bottom-up approach to customer service, so i
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  Coach your team with a customer service programme they can own By Ralph Brown Skillset New Zealand. Published by Fenman, LondonHow’s this for a deal?In this article we’ll look at coaching your team members in customer service, but itcomes with some additional benefits for them and for your organisation. While they’reinvolved in the customer service programme, they’ll be developing their communication,analytical, and problem-solving skills.It’s a bottom-up approach to customer service, so it’s focused on ownership . Top-downcustomer service programmes can develop some useful social skills, but they usually fail because they’re imposed.A team-based, bottom-up customer service programme creates opportunities, even for  people who find that their jobs are unrewarding, to feel that they are running their part of the organisation. Research tells us that ‘feeling in on things’, feeling competent andhaving autonomy at work are major motivators. 1 Key learning points  A customer service programme can provide opportunities to develop other valuableskills.  A team-based bottom-up approach encourages teams and individuals to own the programme.  A seven point checklist helps teams look for opportunities to improve in amethodical way.  Developing simple systems, especially tied to routine events, is much moreeffective than relying on good intentions.  Customer service projects should fit the acronym SAM QC.Introducing a customer service programme is a risk. Most customer service programmes begin with a burst of enthusiasm; then lose energy quickly. When anyone attempts torevive the programme, the cynics are quick to react, and they have the evidence, ‘It’s awaste of time. We’ve tried it before and it was just a talk-fest.’ But it doesn’t have to belike that.A customer service programme will work well when the team members decide what’simportant; when they identify the problems and they come up with their own solutions.They will too. Even office grouches get involved. They want to be consulted and theyoften have plenty to say. Most, but not all, want to see some action, but don’t believe itwill happen. They don’t like grand plans, but they do want things to be better – for themand for customers. It’s a safe assumption that most people want to do good work.Your coaching role is simply to help them see the value of the programme, show them amethodical way of examining their service, brainstorm solutions and keep them focused.You’ll also need to show them how to develop practical customer service projects.  HELP THEM SEE THE VALUE Begin by asking them how they feel about devoting time to developing a customer service programme. Ask them to brainstorm both the advantages and disadvantages personally, for the team, and for your organisation. The negatives are important. Your reaction to them shows that you are interested in reality. If they don’t have enoughdisadvantages, help them. Suggest the time it might take, the distraction from other things, the cost and anything else that might seem relevant. Acknowledge that if the programme is to work, they must find ways of overcoming or minimising thedisadvantages, or making sure that the benefits outweigh them.The theme is ‘Think Small’. Tell them, because it will come as a relief. Add that it makesmuch more sense to think of many small improvements and introduce them gradually because they are busy people. It has to be a programme they can develop and implementeasily. Next, ask the team to list their customers, both within the organisation and outside (their  internal  and external  customers). Ask them to put an asterisk beside those customers or customer groups with whom they have a customer-supplier relationship – where theysupply services or products to people who also supply to them. I like to mention, if theydon’t, the bargaining value of providing a better service to their internal customers. WHAT’S IT LIKE?  Now ask everyone to consider the question, ‘What’s it like being a customer of ours? Asthey work their way through the following seven-point checklist ask them to think of thecustomers they’ve already noted. Encourage them to come up with problems and possiblesolutions because it’s the negatives that create the best opportunities.Don’t allow them to settle for vague summaries. We need specific problems and, if  possible, specific solutions. Ask them to imagine being a particular customer, or kind of customer, visiting them, or contacting them by telephone or email on a stressful day. Thatfocus on the customer is so important to the process (and as a social skill) that you maywant to develop role-plays around some encounters with customers. Encourage them toask questions such as, ‘What’s important for our customers? Do we always do that? Howoften does that happen? Is it the same for our in-house customers? How big a problem isit for them? How big a problem would it be for us to fix it?They should also be noting what they are already doing well, say responding quickly toenquiries, or answering the telephone courteously, but ask them to consider whether theycould do it even better. Would the customer value the difference?The checklist will help them to stay focused. I give teams each topic separately so thatthey don’t glide over more difficult topics. If we are short of time, I assign the first sixtopics to particular groups and ask them to put their ideas on a whiteboard so that the restof the team can review them and add their own suggestions. Contact (Can they contact us when they need us?)  For example What about after-hours?What happens if we are out of town or at a meeting?Would someone calling at the office know where to go? (Has anyone checked our signslately?)  Visuals (How do things look to our customers?)  For example How tidy is the showroom/office/workshop?Do we dress appropriately?How is the décor?Are our cars kept clean? Courtesy (How well do we treat them?)  For example Do we give our names?Do we use their names?Are we diplomatic?Do we communicate openly? Communication  For example Do we keep our customers informed?Do we tell them how long a job or delivery will take?Do we really listen, or jump to the usual solution? Credibility  For example Do we let people down?Do we know enough about our products and services to describe them accurately?Do our customers know about our expertise? Making the customer feel special  For example Do we go the extra mile? Is it really the extra mile or are we just giving what thecustomer expects?Do we treat the customer as an individual? In what ways? Could we do more?Do we do favours for our internal customers? Consistency (How can we provide the same standard of service every time?)When they have chosen solutions to the problems they’ve identified, it’s time to ensurethat each solution that asks people to do things differently becomes a system – a verysimple system. Don’t rely on memory or good intentions if you can avoid it. If possible,link your solution to a routine event or something that is inevitable – say a particular dayor time. (See the panel Some Simple Systems for more.) Some Simple Systems  Link your improvements to routine or inevitable events.  Council building inspectors decided their cars were dirty too often. Theyeither kept forgetting to clean them or said they didn’t have time. Their system was to tie the cleaning to the refuelling so that every time theyfilled up, they put their cars through the car wash. As it happened, one of the local franchises offered a free basic wash with every tank of fuel.  Office staff realised that callers to direct lines were getting voice mailmessages too often and the message might not be answered for severaldays. Now whoever comes in first in the morning, checks who will be  away for the day and arranges for their calls to be diverted to a human.  Staff at a community office realised that their desks were a mess and visibleto both internal and external customers. They decided to stop work a fewminutes early on Fridays so that everyone could tidy up. Linking the actionof tidying up to an inevitable event such as Friday afternoon createdanother simple and durable system.  A training firm (ours) realised that visitors could arrive and find our receptionist away from her desk. The solution was a greeting system.Whoever is expecting a client, approaches a colleague (who may be thereceptionist) and says, ‘Mary Williams is coming in at two; could you greetfor me?’ The greeter will look out for the client, use her name, offer a seat,offer refreshments and bring them through as the meeting begins. Thegreeter even uses special cups and heats them so that the tea won’t go coldwhile we are talking. The guests feel expected and welcomed by the wholeorganisation. (We’ve had that simple system for many years.) CREATE PROJECTS They’ll be able to fix many of the customer service problems they’ve identified withminor changes or simple systems. Some problems are better handled as a project.Sometimes we know there’s a problem, but we are not sure how big it is, or we’re notsure what effect it’s having on our customers, so the first project might be an assessmentor survey. Sometimes the project involves looking for a range of solutions, or the bestsolution.Help your team prepare simple customer service projects by taking them through thischecklist with the acronym SAM QC. Small Our theme is ‘think small’ – many improvements not grand plans. Appreciated If it won’t help us do something the customers appreciate, it’s not a customer service project. Considering how much they’ll appreciate it helps us to list projects in order of  priority. Measurable How will we know it’s done or achieving the results we expect? Think of indicators suchas random checks, the number of complaints or reworks. Often we don’t need to measure.If our project is to set up a play area for visiting children, or a ramp for disabledcustomers, it’s sufficient to tick the box under ‘completed’. Quick  If it won’t give us quick results, it’s not high priority. If you are using the think-smallapproach to customer service, you must get points on the board early and at regular intervals to counter cynicism and keep the energy going. Could the project be separatedinto stages?


Dec 11, 2017


Dec 11, 2017
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