Customer service employees are some of the most abused staff in your organisation. But, it’s not just your organisation – it’s any organisation. They are expected to do the impossible. Managers want them to please all customers all the time, regardless of whether the customer is to blame. They are also expected to work, usually, for minimum wage with a smile on their face. If that sounds unrealistic, it’s because it is. It’s also why most companies’ customer service is horrendous. Here’s how to turn your company around.
Get the best POS system you can afford
It’s always amazing to see companies cheap out on their point-of-sale system. A POS system ties critical departments of a company together, streamlines and automates nearly everything, and makes customers happy and more satisfied. A company that invests in point of sale software for retail stores, for example, will benefit from having an integrated marketing and sales department along with an integrated accounting and purchasing department.
So, when a sale is made, the information is fed into the customer relationship management software, postcards or emails are sent out to follow up with the customer, and reminders are periodically sent out to remind the customer to come back in to buy more product when the customer is out. How will the system know when the customer is out? The SKU.
Let’s say a business customer buys a 30-day supply of product. This information is embedded in the SKU for that product. The POS system can sync with the marketing system and then send out an email or some other marketing message in 20 days, reminding the customer that he is about to run out of product. The customer, who may legitimately not remember how much he’s used, will then be reminded at just the right time. It’s like he has a partner in business, and not just another vendor.
Invest in employee training
Without training, your employees don’t have the knowledge to tackle difficult situations. This is very dangerous. But, even if they have taken college-level communications classes, it doesn’t mean that they know or even use everything they’ve learned. Periodic testing, performance reviews, and ongoing education are often necessary to keep employees “fresh.”
Management should spend time with customers
Customer service staff are almost always shot in the foot by management. That’s because upper management lives in a sort of corporate ivory tower where they don’t have to interact with customers. It’s easy for them to get disconnected. The remedy for this is to force management to spend time with customers. That will give them an idea of what it’s like to be in the customer service staff’s shoes for a day. It can also positively impact managerial decisions and company policy concerning customer service.
Give employees authority
When employees have a certain level of autonomy, they also feel a certain sense of responsibility. Likewise, when employees feel powerless, it’s easy to provide poor service – after all, they’re not responsible for anything important in the company.
For example, do your employees constantly have to hand customers off to different departments, because they do not have the authority to make decisions about pricing, returns, or other customer-service enquiries. It sounds insane, but there are many companies where the customer service staff is essentially powerless.
The customer ends up with multiple points of contact and no real sense of what anyone at the company does. Do this: reduce your customers’ point of contact to one person. The customer service employee should be able to handle a request from start to finish, unless it really does require a high level of technical skill. Even then, it might be worth it to train the staff to be the in-house tech support.
Give employees the power to determine their future with the company
One of the more controversial ways to improve your customer service staff is to empower them with the ability to determine their future. If your staff can help set their own future raises, then they’ll be more inclined to align their interests with yours.
Don’t just base future raises on performance reviews, however. Allow employees to earn automatic raises for quality benchmarks that are objective. For example, when a customer service employee receives a certain number of positive reviews from customers, make them eligible for a guaranteed raise based entirely on their superior service. This motivates the employee to do well all the time, not just right before a performance review.