While being interviewed on a local radio show, one of the co-hosts posed this question - "Errol, exactly what is customer service?"
I don't ever remember being asked that particular question but here's my reply -"Customer service is a methodology that when put in motion, creates a customer's experience." This definition is not specific to any particular industry nor does the size of the organization matter.
Now someone is probably wondering what I mean by methodology. When defining customer service as a methodology, I'm speaking of the systems that an organization chooses to put in place to provide a customer experience.
Ok, now someone may be asking "Errol, now what systems are you referring to? Allow me to explain.
When determining what your organization's customer service methodology will be, you are actually determining the experience your customer will receive when interacting with those within your organization. For instance, when your customer calls and your inbound call methodology dictates that persons answering calls will perform certain tasks while on the call and do so within a certain time frame, those requirements lead to the customer's experience.
When that person's performance review and salary increase is tied to their success in meeting the goals of that inbound call strategy, this too determines the customer's experience with your organization. If your strategy induces this person to be more concerned with meeting goals than taking the necessary steps and time for each customer's situation, this too creates an experience.
When creating core values for your organization, you are creating an experience for your customer. If words such as integrity, honesty, respect and valued are included in your core values, your customer should experience these words when interacting with your organization. Core values are the frame-work from which your customer service methodology is created. Every component of your strategy should be grounded in your core values.
When choosing your training methodology, once again you're creating an experience for your customer. Your customer is depending upon customer contact personnel to be experts on your products and services. Keep the customer's experience in mind when developing training programs. I suggest focusing on creating ambassadors for your organization.
Are customer contact personnel educated on your various products or services?
Have they actually utilized or experienced your products or services for themselves in order to gain the customer's perspective?
What tools will they need to provide a great customer experience?
Be sure to equip them with basic soft skills training as one's ability to be pleasant and professional goes a long way in creating a positive customer experience.
When choosing who get's the opportunity to be the face of your organization through your hiring methodology, here again you're creating an experience for your customer. It's important to carefully establish your hiring criteria. What characteristics are critical for your customer contact personnel? Is industry experience more important than personality traits? Remember, you're attempting to create a great customer experience. Your hiring choices will bear fruit! Make sure it's good fruit!
When exercising your personnel management methodology, remember that this too creates an experience for your customer. Just as you must strive to make sound customer contact personnel hiring decisions, it's even more important to utilize sound management practices. Make sure managers have the proper tools required for this position - people skills, products and services knowledge, coaching skills, leadership skills and a good comprehensive understanding of the organization.
Should your customer contact personnel become frustrated with management practices, your customer will eventually be impacted. Employee turnover, discontent and low productivity all create an experience for your customer. Manage employees in a way that will certainly lead to a great customer experience.
When developing complaint resolution methodology - you got it - you're creating an experience for your customer. We all know that sometimes mistakes are made or things get left undone.
When these errors happen, the need for a quick and thorough resolution is paramount. Is your methodology in this area customer friendly?
Does every resolution require a supervisor/manager's approval or are your customer contact personnel equipped with options for a speedy resolution?
Are you tracking customer complaints for patterns and trends?
Doing so allows one to identify possible operational issues which once corrected will alleviate repeat complaints which in turn - you guessed it - creates a positive customer experience.
When choosing the methodology to get your customer's opinion regarding your products or services - one more time - you're creating an experience for your customer.
We all know the value in getting the customer's opinion. Most love the opportunity to let you know exactly what they think of your organization.
Make it easy for them to do so as the more customer feedback you receive, the more data you have to make decisions. Do you need to make adjustments to your product or services? Do your customer contact personnel need additional training? Provide regular feedback opportunities in order to stay current on what's important to your customer.
These various methodology components create an organizational customer service system which in turn creates customer experiences. Examine your methodologies to insure that they all are geared toward providing what's important to your customer. Now put them all in motion and create great customer experiences!