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There are undoubtedly more than 2,019 ways you could go about improving your customer service as we head into 2019. But the easiest way to botch a fresh start in the new year is to let yourself get overwhelmed. So let’s start the year off with these nine and see how it goes.
1. Listen to yourself: Does your business sound good to customers? Drybar, the blowout-bar phenomenon that has transformed the salon landscape with nearly 100 locations across North America, obsesses over how each location sounds, even to the extent of designing a whole new line of hair dryers to mitigate the vacuum-like noise typical in salons. By contrast, most businesses overlook the important auditory element of the customer experience.
2. Smell yourself. Okay, that was an unsavory phrase to type. Yet this hard-earned pointer comes from my on-the-job experiences, and it would be wrong to not share it. As part of being a customer service consultant, I’m often the fellow businesses hire to mystery shop their operations in the interest of assessing their customer service and customer experience. To do so correctly and completely, I have to use all my senses. You can do the same: Sure, those flowers look lovely in your lobby, but does the water smell like old sneakers? Likewise, do your “offsite” smokers still retain those noxious scents on their clothes and breath when they return to work? If so, your customers are not going to be pleased.
3. Park where your customers park. I mean this both literally and metaphorically. Speaking literally, if you aren’t following the same entry route into your offices that your customers take, it’s hard to understand what they may be up against: Is there ample parking; are the directional signs clear; are there obstacles or not blocking the way for your customers with disabilities; are the trash cans on the way in overflowing; and so forth. Metaphorically, this concept is every bit as important. If you always use your auto-login on your website, you’ll never discover what a hassle it may be to try to log in if you’re a mere civilian (i.e., a customer) who has lost or forgotten their password and is hung up on your user-unfriendly password recovery process.
4. Write a concise, meaningful statement of purpose (keep it not much longer than this sentence, in fact). Devote some time and brain cells toward writing a sentence or two that define the purpose of your organization and the type of behaviors you’ll be expecting, from here forward, from every frontline associate, manager, and executive in your organization. This statement of purpose should be written in clear language; it should be short enough to be memorable but long enough to be meaningful.
Consider the statement of purpose that guides Safelite AutoGlass as a model: We exist to make a difference and bring unexpected happiness to people’s everyday lives. The Safelite statement is only fourteen words long, and the only words that stray beyond two syllables are the most essential ones: “unexpected,” “difference,” “happiness,” and “everyday.” (Here’s a longer discussion of Safelite’s customer service transformation.) Whether or not your statement is quite as concise as this one, concision and precision are exactly what you should be aiming for. It’s essential to avoid the kind of flowery, jargon-infested statement whose inevitable fate will be to languish, unremembered, in somebody’s desk drawer.
5. Deploy a customer service recovery approach that’s effective at turning upset customers around. It’s essential to develop a customer service recovery framework that can be used for those times when the situation hits the fan and the customer hits the roof.
If your organization hasn’t already committed to a different service recovery system, let me offer you my own five-step AWARE service recovery framework [Acknowledge, Widen, Agree, Restate, Evaluate], which you can read about here. (If you’d also like a formatted, printable version of my AWARE customer service recovery method, let me know and I’ll send it to you for your office use.)
6. Improve the language you use with customers. One of the quickest ways to lose a customer is through rude or thoughtless language. One of the first things I develop onsite when overhauling a company’s customer service experience is a language lexicon or phrasebook . This is simply a list of words and phrases to avoid when interacting with customers, each one paired with a preferable alternative or alternatives. You can do the same yourself; here are a few bad and good language choices to get you started.
7. Consider the question of bringing AI into your customer support mix, being careful to not think of AI vs. human agent support as an either/or proposition. Many times the best approach is to think of AI using the triangular model (both as an operational model and as a mental model that can guide your thinking) pioneered by Ryan Lester, Director of Customer Engagement Technologies at LogMeIn, developers of Bold360, an AI-powered customer engagement solution. [Disclosure: I have done consultant workfor Bold360.]
In Lester’s triangle, one point is the customer; the second point is the chatbot, and the third point is the agent, with great support coming from the interactions, or “conversations,” among the three of them.” With proper AI implementation that follows Lester’s approach, a customer’s interaction might start with AI, via an AI-powered dynamic search bar or chatbot, but you don’t expect your deployment of AI to handle everything. The interaction can be moved over to the human agent when it gets complex, but with bot continuing to assist the agent either behind the scenes or more directly–automatically inserting tracking results into the conversation, for example–as part of the support the customer receives.
8. Work on how you go about giving customer service and customer support over social media. Customer support via social media channels is a newer arrival on the scene than telephone customer support, which goes back many decades, and email, which is also pretty well established, and it’s often treated haphazardly in comparison. But I encourage you to put a similar level of planning and professionalism into how you approach it. You should be ready to engage and assist customers via social media as systematically and thoroughly as you do via more traditional channels.
To get this effort off on the right foot, staff your social media team with true customer service professionals, just like you staff your telephone support–rather than with employees whom you’ve put there solely because of their affinity for technology and who may or may not have the same affinity for human-on-human interaction. Properly selected and trained customer support representatives know how to “listen” empathetically and answer in kind, which is perhaps even more important on social than it is on the phone, due to the lack of audible cues like you’d get on the phone (and the fact that your employees are leaving a written, public record with their every social media response).
9. Introduce a repeating ritual to reinforce your customer service principles and standards. Day after day, time can chip away at whatever progress you’ve made in your level of customer service, through the inevitable force of entropy, or, day after day, time can be your ally as you methodically reinforce and add texture and heft to the customer service excellence that you’ve begun to establish. One powerful sustaining ritual that I initiate with many customer service consulting clients is what I call a daily Customer Service Minute. (In spite of its name, it will more likely require five minutes, but keep it under ten.) Hold your Customer Service Minute at the beginning of each workday (or at the beginning of each shift, if you run more than one shift a day). This will be a ritual that involves employees–all employees–meeting in small groups at the same time each day to kick off the workday on the right note.
Each Customer Service Minute should be devoted to a single aspect of providing great service. This generally includes sharing examples that illustrate the service principle in question as well as going over helpful techniques, pitfalls encountered, and challenges overcome. I recommend that the leader be a different employee each day; if you take this approach, your employees, in rotation, will be learning and teaching at the same time, and you’ll avoid overburdening any manager or single team member.
January 7, 2019 at 07:44PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs