Each year, National Customer Service Week provides leaders a natural opportunity to start a discussion about customer experience and customer service with their teams. It creates a defined time period to not only celebrate your team’s delivery of service but also to look at ways your team can take its service to new heights.
As we approach this week’s NCSW, one powerful approach you can take with your team is to review fundamental customer service techniques and to find ways to make improvements in their execution.
If you are leading a customer-centric culture and have the right team on board, then many of your service challenges will be executional rather than attitudinal. Below are three executional areas where virtually every organization can find easy customer service improvements.
#1: Communication Habits
Communication is the backbone of customer service. Without great, customer-centric communication, even the best product or service experience will be diminished. For frontline teams, communication should focus on when and how to use key communication techniques to make customers feel valued and appreciated.
Are your team members greeting customers consistently? Are they reassuring customers by taking accountability when they have to disengage? Are they using power words to help generate certain emotions in customers. Are they using psychological techniques like framing and priming to help shape conversations? Are they focusing on what they can do, not what they can’t.
These are but a sampling of the communication concepts that can help your service team improve its interactions with customers. Focus on a few key communication tactics that you feel could be improved or could have the most impact on your customer’s journey.
#2: Systems Knowledge
Hopefully, your customer relationship management system enables you to better interact with and service your customers. However, that power is frequently unrealized and underutilized by frontline service teams.
Often, they know enough about their system “to get through their shift” but not everything that it can do to create better customer experiences. In Be You Customer’s Hero, I told the story of a frozen yogurt shop where the cashier had the ability to pause a transaction and process other customers while waiting on a customer’s entire party to be ready for checkout. It’s a common occurrence in that business model, and on at least two prior occasions, a cashier could have improved my experience by offering it to me.
The feature wasn’t new (I asked), so the previous cashiers either didn’t care to use it or didn’t realize the system had that power.
Take this opportunity to review the power your systems have to provide great customer experiences and to make sure your team members know about and are motivated to use the power at their fingertips.
#3: Employee Empowerment
The more employees are empowered to resolve customer issues in real-time, the more hassle-free your customer’s experiences will be. Take time during National Customer Service Week to ask your team how they have felt constrained or stymied in their attempts to address the needs of customers.
You’ll likely find areas where obsolete or ineffective policies or rules need to be addressed. You’ll also find places where you need to empower employees to be able to serve customer needs on the spot. The surprising revelation, however, will likely be the areas where employees have been empowered and don’t use that power — a dynamic that is usually caused by one of two situations.
First, they might not know they are empowered to perform certain actions for customers. In training customer service reps, I’ve run into phrases like “I didn’t know I could do that” or “I thought I needed a supervisor’s approval” more times than I can count.
Second, they might lack the psychological empowerment. They don’t feel comfortable acting. When we discuss employee empowerment, we often discuss “actual empowerment,” the granting of increased authority, roles and responsibilities. However, there is a difference between actual empowerment and psychological empowerment, between giving the authority and the employee feeling empowered to use it.
If this is the case, take a hard look at the reasons. Are they cultural? Is the power new? Is management supportive? Team members need to feel comfortable that they can act in the customer’s best interest without repercussions.
Take a Moment to Talk
National Customer Service Week is an excellent time to remind frontline teams that meeting and exceeding customer expectations is their ultimate goal. However, having a customer-centric attitude is not enough, you must make sure they have the skills and training to deliver to customers every time.
By focusing on execution throughout National Customer Service Week, you can help refine your team’s skills and improve your customer’s experiences. If that’s not a celebration of customer service, I don’t know what is!
Adam Toporek is an internationally recognized customer service expert, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. He is the author of Be Your Customer’s Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines, as well as the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog. When he’s not speaking or delivering high energy customer service workshops, he can be found co-hosting the Crack the Customer Code podcast and writing extensively on customer experience.