I’m always fascinated at how similarly – and yet how differently - the teams from various firms approach the question, ‘What do we need to do to continuously improve our customer service?’
At present we are running a six-week customer service programme with Save Hyper. The management team developed their lists of their answers and these have been consolidated as follows:
- Revisit the company vision and goals on a regular basis. And explore what they really mean to the organisation and to the staff. How do the staff see them? How could they interpret and align their behaviour better?
- Create a culture of ‘continuous improvement’. Practice ‘positive discontent’. Regularly examine and question each element of your service. And for each ask: ‘is this the best it can be’? If the answer is ‘yes’, we review that same element at the assigned review time and ask the same question again. If the answer is ‘no’, then look at constructive and creative ways in which to remedy or improve that aspect of service. And implement.
- Go the extra mile. I love the expression: ‘there are no traffic jams on the extra mile’. So few companies go there so this becomes a competitive advantage.
- Make customer service memorable – it is an integral part of everyone’s work, regardless of job description.
- Listen to what customers are really saying (rather than ‘listen to your customers’). There I would add, ‘and take steps to find out what they are not saying’!
- Listen to your customers in a way that makes them feel valued. The quality of your listening is important.
- Consider everyone in the organisation as a brand ambassador.
- Observe how the staff present themselves. And this is deeper than just how they appear, although that is very important. Individual hygiene comes into this, too. How professional and loyal do they appear in everything they do?
- Take note of how staff members interact with customers and is their attitude positive? Are they warm and friendly and building relationships? Or are they just answering questions as part of their job?
- Engage with customers – both the external customers and the internal customers. Build relationships. Advise them on their needs and hi-light opportunities.
- Adapt to the customers’ changing wants and needs. And here we need to becognisant of past and potential customers, too. What do they want and need from your organisation or business?
- Find ways to creatively tap in to what people really think about your service and products. Have effective, regular surveys with people who shop at your shop – and also with those who don’t.
- Have effective measurement tools to track customer service. Get regular relevant and useable feedback from customers. Use it to improve business.
- Identify ‘stumbling blocks’. What is making it more difficult for customers to shop with us? How could we make it easier for our staff to do a good job?
- The managers and staff need to be visible and available. This applies particularly when a query needs to be resolved. It is pointless their being there, engrossed in ‘team-talk’ and not being available to customers.
- Address complaints promptly within the framework of your sound ‘bounce back strategy’.
- As managers, coach and mentor others. Transfer your skills. Mentor team members and communicate regularly and effectively with them.
- Empower staff through regular training and other initiatives.
- Good customer service should be acknowledged and rewarded. And this is an interesting point. The sooner a member of the management team or team-leader says ‘well done’, the more effective it is. And consider what reward would be appreciated? Sometimes, the acknowledgement is enough and they don’t need any other reward.
- Monitor the cost effectiveness of improved service to all aspects of the business, including admin and warehouse.
- Display products in the most appealing and effective manner. And merchandise productively.
- Everyone who answers a phone needs to be trained in telephone etiquette and use it effectively.
- Visit other retailers. Know as much about your competitors as possible. Use that information to build better service. Also explore diverse businesses to see if there are ideas you could adapt and incorporate.
- Everyone needs to practise self-leadership. Be flexible and open to change and improving the way you do things.
- Make customer service a functional requirement of everyone’s job.
- Have fun! Enjoy your work.
The conversations in groups provide a platform for quality conversation. By sharing ideas and perceptions, not only is information transferred, but relationships are built. Relationships both within the business and externally as well provide the framework within which customer service can flourish.
For more information on Sustainable Customer Service strategy or any of the other services we offer, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +27 82 4993311.