Customer Service: Who Cares?

4 Things that Can Deteriorate a Customer’s Experience and 4 Ways to Win Their Confidence Back

Kylie was frustrated with many things at Wackie Tek. She had been a service rep for more thans 10 years, and was totally annoyed by, in her words, “dealing with the same stupid challenges every day.” After all, how many times could she ask, “Have you rebooted your system yet?”

Her supervisor, Sharon, was getting reports of customer complaints about Kylie. “That service rep is just plain rude,” one customer told her when she conducted a follow-up call after a complaint. “I don’t want to be talked down to when I’m trying to solve a frustrating problem.”

The other members of her team were suffering, too. When Sharon brought up a persistent issue at the weekly team meeting, she listened as Kylie blamed two other colleagues for failing to resolve the issue. The rest of the team was very subdued and quiet, even members who regularly offered ideas for improving the customer’s experience.

Sharon noticed that Kylie was exhibiting four things that were damaging her performance, damaging her team, and causing the company to lose customers:

Poor Attitude. A person’s true intent shines through in their attitude, and exhibiting a poor attitude is a harbinger of the problems to come. Kylie’s lack of courtesy to customers, her blaming problems on other team members, and her opinion about the company overall revealed a very poor attitude toward the job. Even those problems outside of the workplace can reveal attitude challenges within the workplace.

Poor Responsiveness. Kylie was often slow to respond and recurrently refused to empathize with the customer at the other end of the line. She just wanted to clear the issue from her desk as quickly as possible. Consequently, she was only reaching a basic resolution of the immediate problem, even when she had an opportunity to help the customer with a long-term solution.

Failure to See Things Through. Kylie was washing her hands of customers that frustrated her, handing off calls to other team members, escalating a call to a team lead even when she could solve the issue, and never following up on a service ticket.

Being Selfish. Kylie tended to get through her workload each day faster than any other team member. That was part of the reason Sharon, for so long, hadn’t seen her attitude as a problem. Sharon realized, as she thought more about it, that Kylie never shared with others how she worked so quickly. If she had a good idea for improving workflow, no one else knew about it. She also refused to implement new ideas from her colleagues.

With Kylie’s current behavior it was not surprising that customers were complaining, Sharon realized. Now, her attitude was beginning to rub off on other team members. This was showing up as a notable increase in mistakes by the entire team and substantially lower team morale.

Exasperated by her behavior, Sharon was on the verge of offering Kylie career redirection advice.
This scenario replays itself time and time again in a variety of industries and organizations worldwide. Regardless of whether the customers are internal or external, top organizations clearly recognize and understand that the customer experience is vital to the overall health of the organization.

Recognizing and immediately addressing behaviors like those Kylie exhibited is crucial to a company’s success. Rebuilding the team’s morale and your relationship with customers is possible. In fact, the solution is a time-tested one that can be implemented in any organization, at any level.

Elevate the Customer Experience

To create a team that excels and customers that sing your praises, follow these four strategies.

Be Responsive. Customers need to feel that they are important and that the service agent is working as quickly as possible to solve their challenge. This can mean following up with the customer a day or two afterward, thereby letting them know they are important.

Another aspect of being responsive is knowing some of what your customers are dealing with. By knowing something about their challenges, you can be more empathetic and more responsive to their needs.

Take Ownership. When a call comes in, you need to take ownership of that problem and see it through to the very end. Even when a call is not in your specific area of expertise and you need to get someone else involved in solving the challenge, you still own that challenge. Regardless of what needs to be done on the team or in the department, it is everyone’s responsibility to make sure it gets done. Everyone needs to own everything within the department.

One of my clients bought an old-fashioned coat tree, brought it into the office and set it up where everyone walked by it every day. Next to the coat tree was a sign that read, “Check your coats, hats, and egos here.” Everyone owned everything.

Be Courteous. This seemingly simple advice is often a challenge. Do you remember how Kylie got upset when she was asked the same repetitive question by different customers? That attitude came across in her voice, and this often translated into Kylie not being perceived as courteous.

When customers call in, they need to know that their problem, no matter how small or simple, is the most important thing to you at that moment in time.

If you take every call with an attitude of how you can make their day, every customer will feel like you are the most courteous person ever.

Share Knowledge. It is not uncommon for employees to hoard the knowledge they learn. Often, this is due to a fear that if they share the knowledge, others will use it to elevate themselves over the employee who shared it with them.

Teams with a high level of vulnerability trust do not see this obstacle.

“Knowledge is power” is an incomplete expression. Rather, I like to say that “Knowledge is not power without application.” Don’t get me wrong: Garnering knowledge is a vital first step. The second step is to apply the knowledge you have gained. Most of us are pretty good at the first step; some of us are good at applying this knowledge. When knowledge is shared, that’s when ultimate success happens.

Top organizations maximize this by having team members take training courses throughout the year; then, that team member teaches what he or she learned to the rest of the team. Likewise, when a unique challenge is solved by applying something new, this innovation needs to be shared with everyone.

Set the Tone

Ensuring that team members are aware of and follow these strategies is important. They should be incorporated in all phases of employee training, whether that is training new employees or ongoing employee training.

The great thing about these four strategies is that they can be distilled into four clear value statements that make them even more powerful:

Be Responsive. We immediately acknowledge the customer and their needs. We ensure they receive a timely response.
Take Ownership. We provide personalized and proactive service. We anticipate needs and implement solutions.
Be Courteous. We treat others the way we want to be treated. Everyone is a VIP customer.
Share Knowledge. We live the quote from John F. Kennedy, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” By sharing what we learn with each other, we all achieve success.
Note each statement begins with “We,” emphasizing the team and not a single individual.

These four value statements are easy to remember, and sharing them with team members in a way that keeps them at the forefront of their thoughts during the workday can spur amazing change in teams at all levels of the customer service chain.

Keeping these customer service concepts in sight is a powerful way to create TOMA (Top of Mind Awareness). One highly effective way to do this is to print these concepts on laminated poster sheets or framed signs and hang them up where team members can easily see them.

Refocusing the team toward the above four values can put them back on track and win the loyalty of customers who feel like VIPs every time they call.

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