With increasingly competitive and highly globalized businesses, your customers are faced with myriad choices when they buy a product or service. Assuming the product or service quality is the same amongst vendors, their loyalty and commitment to your brand can greatly be influenced by the quality of the service your personnel provide to them. Organizations with poor and inconsistent customer service quality are bound to create unsatisfied customers resulting to loss of business and tarnished image. Thus, in this article, we examine how an organization can develop a culture of service that can provide enduring impact to your customer loyalty.
Step 1: Develop a customer service mission statement. The mission statement translates the vision and core values of your organization with regard to how your customers are treated and valued by your management and personnel. Your customer service mission statement should be clear and should truly reflect your organizational commitment to make it happen. It should not be a mere lip service or some good sounding slogan devoid of implementation plans and resources.
The mission statement determines the intention and direction of culture of the organizational customer service culture. A misdirected mission statement would create confusing messages, inefficient systems and procedures and ill-equipped and non-empowered personnel to tackle the challenges and issues with customers. Get the mission statement right and you’ll get your customer service climate right. An example of a customer service mission statement is as follows:
Our organization aims to create a friendly, respectful, attentive, systematic and speedy response and resolution to our customer concerns [within a specified timeframe or metrics].
The above statement enumerates core values such as friendliness, respectfulness, attentiveness, being systematic and speed. The statement can include duration or metrics to meet at each customer service interaction. What is the customer service that you want your customers to experience in every interaction they have with your organization?
Step 2: Plan and implement a customer service climate within your organization. The climate is primarily driven by the core values of the mission statement. In order to develop the right climate, systems, procedures, tools and methodologies will have to be in place in complete harmony with each other resulting to the customer service promise you have made in words or capsulated in the service or purchase agreement. In delivering that promise, it will involve cross-function collaboration and cooperation in most instances. Without clear and understood systems, efficient tools, and defined roles and responsibilities within the customer service team and supporting teams from other departments, you can expect internal chaos and conflicts resulting to waiting and disgruntled customers, and of course, potential business loss.
Let us examine the first value in our sample mission statement. Friendliness. Whilst it comes naturally to some people, friendliness is hardly natural at all. Friendliness is achieved by teaching the customer service personnel to mindfully visualize the customers as an important part of the organization’s business. After all, without the customers, the business has no purpose whatsoever. The product or service must be of use to someone. Friendliness results from the use of proper words, greetings, questions, gestures, movements, eye contact, voice modulation intonation and pause that makes the interaction pleasant and with pleasure. Most of all, friendliness is a state of mind and a certainly an attitude – a decision. I can opt to be friendly or unfriendly today. A dissonance between words and actions will certainly create an unfriendly customer interaction. Hence, friendliness is achieved by following guidelines, steps, and tasks that bring out the right behavior and attitude towards a concern and towards a customer and through a mindful decision to do so.
Creating the right climate for customer service includes integrating to your organizational performance management philosophy an appropriate reward system encouraging a culture of customer service. There are many forms of incentives that can cultivate customer service commitment. This will require an understanding of the motivational factors of your personnel. Some would prefer recognition, time off, financial reward and combination of all three. Use them as you see fit.
Step 3: Equip your personnel with the right competencies. The mission statement and the customer service climate determine the right skills, knowledge and behavior/attitude your personnel must imbibe. According to your organizational talent development plan, identify and define the essential customer service competencies. Let us examine the value Attentiveness from our sample mission statement. Attentiveness is the result of various communication skills at work. Such skills include active listening, proper questioning, summarizing, and explaining in a friendly and respectful manner.
Not to forget to mention is the delivery of systematic and speedy response or resolution to an issue. Being systematic comes from clear thinking and logical approach to issue at hand. Being speedy results from being systematic but this can also be highly influenced or controlled by business tools or systems in place such customer service management systems (CRMs), order tracking system (OTS), etc. I have pointed out that business tools are essential in creating the right customer service climate in the preceding section.
Step 4: On-going monitoring of the entire customer service initiative. The mission statement should be regularly evaluated if indeed, it reflects the vision and core values of your organization; the climate needs to be constantly assessed by way of regular customer surveys, internal feedback system, external expert’s monitoring and auditing, and data collection and analysis to determine if the customer service metrics or key result areas (KRAs) or key performance indices (KPIs) are being met or exceeded.
A culture of customer service delivers tremendous benefits to your organization. Clarity in your mission statement provides the right direction to your personnel. Organized and systematic procedures, efficient tools and defined roles and responsibilities minimize conflicts and misunderstandings. A culture tends to reinforce itself by persistent push to understand what it is that makes an excellent customer interaction. Customers’ positive feedbacks energize the organization and contagiously draw more customers. Talent development plans based on business objectives and personnel development needs and goals utilize resources wisely resulting to highly motivated and ever ready customer service personnel. Customer service is not about the product or service. It is about how your organization views customers. They are people with needs and they come to you under their own circumstances. Their anger or impatience may not be really directed to you but rather to prior experience or personal issues. A positive culture of customer service allows your organization to see people as humans and not just individuals to fill your till.
In summary, customer service becomes a way of life within your organization. Such way of life is influenced by organizational mission statement, customer service climate and your commitment to identify, develop and reinforce the right customer service competencies. Remember: satisfied customers means business continuity and growth!
Post by Ramil Cueto – Director & Principal Consultant C2C China