27. January 2016
The value of good customer service is often neglected by companies due to lack of time or money. Reality is that good service is the foundation for a loyal customer base, positive brand image and good sales figures. To achieve all of this, a company must have a well-executed customer service process that consists of five steps. By following each step and repeating the process yearly, success for your company is guaranteed.
Stage One – Analyse
Before you can start improving your customer service, you need to know where you stand. You need to know your customers – what do they expect when they walk through your door. Regardless of business type, knowing your customer in and out is essential. For example in restaurant business if you are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the expectations of your morning customers will be totally different from the expectations of your dinner customers.
After you have mapped your customers’ needs, you have to understand whether or not your service meets their expectations. The easiest way to analyse the improvement needs in service area is through service audit which includes mystery shopping as well as experts’ evaluations.
Service audit means a walk-through of a typical customer transaction starting from walking in through the doors of your shop or restaurant – Is the client greeted? Is the service of the staff friendly, helpful and efficient? What happens next? The audit does not only evaluate the human behaviour but also the environment of the shop and anything physical located in the shop – the placement and attractiveness of the products; marketing and sales materials.
When analysing your staff, it’s not only the manners or smile, it’s also the skills of doing additional sales and closing, understanding the customers’ needs and getting enough information from client to offer the best service. Service audit also gives you an opportunity to compare and analyse your service quality with your competitors. You might have the same product but who stands out with the service wins the race.
Stage Two – Set the standards
Creating and implementing your customer service standards is very important part of the process. After you have evaluated your current customer service level, you must put down some ground rules to make sure that every person in your company understands why you are doing things in a particular way. Customer service standards help you lead your service process daily and provide cooperation on working towards mutual goals to become a better company and offer better service to your customers. Service standards should be the foundation of your customer service and making sure each employee understands and follows them is crucial for success.
Stage Three – Train
The next important step in customer service improvement process is training your employees. You shouldn’t assume that employees know how to meet your expectations. Consistency is crucial. Make sure you find the time to train your employees, as many companies make the mistake to undervalue the need of training in customer service. Before the training, make a list of important skills you want the staff to master. It’s important to have a well thought- through training plan. Make sure your trainings have a goal and structure, otherwise it can work against your employees development, not talking about wasted time and money.
For a well-executed training programme it’s best to have a guarantor responsible for the trainings, so the person will have an overview of the whole process in a long run. For a specific training topic, you can send your customer service team for a professional service training where they will be taught how to interact with different types of clients, what to say when client says the price is too high for the product and how to handle stressful situations. You might also want to train your employees on upselling and cross-selling techniques and how to be more proactive and gain more loyal customers.
Stage Four – Validate the knowledge
In the process of developing a service strategy it’s important not to forget to involve the sales team. You should include employees in decision making process and solving the problems. Create the atmosphere of support and cooperation where everybody wants to work. Think on initiatives that motivate your sales team to give their best and make sure everybody understands what is expected from them and how they can contribute to making the company grow.
Listen to your employees and work together, ask their opinion and give them constant feedback. Also keep your employees informed about the changes they need to know about – the products or services you offer (product trainings are very important), share important information about the company that they should be aware of. Make sure your team knows more about your company than your clients do.
Most companies work out special motivation packages for their employees. Best approach for your company should be developed within the organisation. When developing a new system, make sure not to turn employees against each other. Set the goals for the team to motivate them to work together towards the same goal, because every employee is in the same boat.
Whatever the method, hard work should be appreciated and best examples recognized. Don’t forget that learning is continuous process and you should always follow up. Provide both positive and corrective feedback to your team, praise in public but criticize in private.
Stage Five – Follow up and do it again
After you have set the base for great customer service, it’s important to evaluate the performance continuously to make sure the effort put in the system is actually paying off. Monthly or quarterly mystery shopping research gives you the input to monitor the service level and to make sure that the customer always receives best service no matter the time, sales person or the shop.
Never become complacent, your customer is your biggest friend and advisor. Listen and take notes. Revise the service development system yearly so you know the areas you have improved in; what has worked, what not; which areas should be in focus next year. As Bill Gates says “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”