Customer Service Essentials For All Departments

How is your customer driving profitability?

No matter what position you hold in your organization, customer service should be part of your job.  Do you feel that it is part of yours?  What actions do you take to incorporate your work into the customer service core of your company?  I encourage you to read through these customer service success tips and ask yourself what you can do to help support and improve the relationship your customers have with your company.  Here are six fundamental actions your customer service team can focus on to improve service levels, and the support other company departments should be providing to improve the bottom line.

Understand your products.

If you are in Customer Service, you are first person a customer talks to, so you need to be able to answer the majority of their questions, not just pass the question on to someone else in your company.  Ask for product training.  If there is no formal or extensive training program, align yourself with a sales person to get a more in depth knowledge of your company’s products.  It will make your customers happy and you will have more confidence in your job.  Take the time to create your own product-training manual, have others look at it and add / make modifications.

  • If you work in marketing, put together a product-training program for your customer service group with literature, as well as training sessions with question/answer time.  Staggered lunch and learns and early morning/after hours meetings also work for this group.
  • If you work in sales, try to align yourself with your customer service team to train on the products with them.  Set up a buddy system where you assign sales people to customer service people and answer questions that come up.  Share your knowledge with the customer service team regarding selling points on products via email distribution lists.  These can be simple situation/resolution informative emails.
  • If you are in operations, set up a training program for each production, inventory and distribution process so that the customer service team understands and is able to convey more informative information to your customers.  Provide a key personnel contact list to the customer service team with your staff’s contact information detailing who to call for each type of customer issue.

Remain customer focused.

Have you ever experienced a customer service person that seems annoyed that you are asking them a question?  This is not customer focused!  Imagine yourself as the customer, how would you want to be treated?  Listen to them, keep a smile on your face and project your interest in helping them find solutions.  Try putting a mirror on your desk and check out the expression you are giving to your customer.

  • If you are a support function to customer service, make sure your attitude towards them is the same as if you were talking directly to the customer.  Your efforts will shine all the way through as customer service transfers your message.

Proactively manage personalities.

Learning to manage different personalities both internally and externally can be difficult. One way is to take a deep breath and an open mind into every dialog you have. Another is to proactively train yourself on different personality types. Document the interactions you have with difficult people and define how you could have handled yourself better. What would you do the next time you encounter someone like that? If you study personality types and your responses to them, you will be able to proactively manage the situation better and provide better service the next time you encounter a similar situation. Remember to keep ego out of it. Being humble and resourceful is a better approach.

Maintain quality control and attention to detail.

Mistakes happen but it is your job to minimize the potential for those mistakes by providing and receiving ongoing training on the systems and processes used in your job. You should consider implementing a documented quality control system such as an ISO system that accounts for standardized practices for customer service, as well as how to handle quality complaints and customer disputes. By putting a system like this in place you are not only self-auditing and training to make improvements, but you are standardizing the service level to ensure the entire team is held to the same standards and practices. This attention to detail will raise the overall reputation of service for your organization.

  • If you work in a department outside of customer service, make sure your efforts are part of the quality control system in the areas where you interact with customer service.  As much as it may seem like a hindrance to be part of these controls, your ability to standardize your baseline response and focus on systematic improvements will benefit your entire company…and your customers.
  • Make sure you follow the reports generated against these systems and use them to interact and make improvements to your workflow.

Know the strengths and weaknesses of your team.

Nobody is great at everything, but some of us are definitely better than others at some things. If you are managing a customer service group, it is important to know what each person is great at doing. Don’t be afraid to rearrange workload to take advantage of these strengths, pay premiums for them and use them as a model to train others. Some examples are expediting, international customers, returns, quality concerns, and key accounts. In some cases you can funnel these items through key people, in others, you can have them oversee the group activity and focus on universal improvements; stepping in to assist when necessary.

  • If you work outside of customer service, find out whom these key individuals are and align yourself with them.  Become their resource within your own department and work with them to define working relationships, response times and key indicators for success.

Track your results.

Often the customer service group is taken for granted by other areas of the organization.  As a result the responsiveness of the organization to customer service/customer issues is not as timely as required.  By tracking your results and establishing a group of result metrics, you have an opportunity to target problem areas, amplify the customer’s needs and engage your entire organization in service level accountability.

Some examples of metrics include:

  • number of orders vs. number of returns
  • dollar value of returns vs. sales dollars by month,
  • response time from operations on quality complaints
  • reason for complaint broken out by category such as late delivery, quality problem, wrong product shipped, out of stock product, data entry error.

First track results, next share them, and finally, facilitate improvement plans.

  • If you work outside of customer service, take these indicators seriously, be part of the improvement planning and incorporate the results into your own team’s performance expectations.

Customer service can be a very difficult job, but by having comprehensive and ongoing training, streamlined systems, improvement driven metrics and the support of the entire organization, you can make it a well oiled machine; happy employees, happy customers…can you ask for more?  Oh…the bottom line improves dramatically, did I mention that?  Just like removing waste from operations improves profits, so does removing waste in your customer service machine.  Break down silos and become one, no matter what your position,  everyone should be part of customer service.

I hope this perspective is helpful to you in your day-to-day life.  Test out these concepts and share your results with us.  Others can benefit from your experiences.  Good luck!

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Written by Lisa Woods, President Lisa Woods Consulting & Founder of ManagingAmericans.com

Lisa is a dynamic business leader & author located in Western New York with more than 20 years experience leading, managing and driving growth in the corporate world. Today she partners with business leaders to understand their vision, identify internal and external roadblocks, define a practical strategic path forward and guide a successful transformation. This work includes strategy definition & goal setting, organizational design, facilitating team buy-in, establishing visual metrics, internal and external research studies, business feasibility assessments, and investor insight into organizational strength, weakness & strategic opportunity. She helps business leaders drive growth & increase profits.

Strategic Consulting ǀ Management Consulting: Strategy Realized

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