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Frontline Fix

by fatweb

By Sandy Galland

badserviceHeadlines constantly scream bad news on the topic of customer service:

  • Poor work culture and a lack of workplace leadership is costing the New Zealand business sector more than $2.6 billion a year, says a survey conducted this year
  • Thousands of workers in New Zealand are actively disengaged, costing us more than $3.6 billion per year, according to a Gallop survey.

Eighty-four percent of customers who had a negative customer experience with a company said they had spread the word about the negative experience, while 87 percent had stopped doing business with a company who provided a bad experience. And 58 percent of customers say they will pay more for better customer experiences, according to the 2009 International Customer Experiences Impact Report.

The statistics keep coming; earlier this year two separate independent online surveys of 1500 employees found that less than half of employees (45 percent) had trust and confidence in their leaders, while more than a quarter of employees under the age of 40 aren’t clear on, or simply don’t care about, their organisation’s goals.

If you own a business and employ people — this is scary stuff. That’s Scary with a capital S!

Is your company one who contributes to the millions of dollars effectively flushed away due to bad customer experiences? Do you employ a round peg who you’ve tried to slot into a square hole? If so, then you are not alone.

One of the leading causes of customer dissatisfaction is poor interaction with frontline staff — often this is because the wrong person has been employed to do the job.

Let’s however, jump back a few steps. What is the difference between customer service and customer experience? Chris Bell of Customer Experience, a leading skill development provider, defined it as:

“Customer experience is everything within an organisation which will eventually influence what someone receives at the front counter.

“Customer service is the transactional aspect of that whole experience. It’s simply the interaction you have with the people in the organisation, be it telephoning or face to face.

“Businesses do not understand that. They think ‘customer experience’ is a new fancy term for customer service.”

Bell is passionate about the topic and believes quite adamantly that most customer service training is ineffective and a waste of money.

Why? “Customer service training is currently being addressed in isolation and is usually a reaction to customer complaints or customer defection. However, it should be treated as a vital part of the total business strategy to develop a sustainable competitive advantage.

“When customer service training is carried out without a proper customer experience foundation, the training has little impact on changing employee behaviour and ultimately on improving customer experiences.”

Bell says you can’t take just one part of an organisation and spend time trying to develop and upskill it and expect this to fix everything in the organisation. “There is a lot more besides the person you interact with at the front counter which influence whether you get good customer service or not.”

Good customer interaction comes about from effective leadership and the culture of the organisation (which is totally moulded by leadership), and the processes and systems implemented by the business.

“There is no quick fix when it comes to delivering great customer experiences,” says Bell. “Business is constantly looking for the quick fix, but you can’t do this quickly. You have to focus on the leadership, the culture, the systems and processes. And if you have the wrong people interacting with the customer, this is difficult as you can’t change people’s personalities, no matter how many training courses you send them on.”

Nothing is going to change if we keep doing what we have done in the past, he laments. In his company, they don’t do any customer service or sales training unless it is wrapped around a vision, a defined customer experience and measurable service standards.

It is not uncommon for a company to dismiss ideas from the team. Everyone’s ideas can add immense value. Failure to listen to and appreciate the experience of the people who work in the business can lead to ‘you don’t care about my ideas’, then ‘you don’t care too much about me, so maybe I don’t care to much about improving and making your business successful. I will just turn up to get a paycheck’ attitudes.

Is this happening in you business? Passion is needed to deliver a meaningful customer experience and as Bell concludes, “If passion is stomped on, you don’t get more passion”.

Customer Experience’s seven steps to successful customer engagement

Committed leadership

Leaders must commit themselves and their teams to creating a customer-focused business culture. This culture is created not by what they say, but what they do. The single biggest reason customer experience initiatives fail is that staff do not believe management is fully committed to the concept.

A strategic vision

Without a vision statement your business will lack direction and unifying aims. Every organisation must have a clear view of where it is heading and how it intends to get there. “You need an all-inclusive, participative environment where every team member is actively involved, inspired, motivated and empowered so you can move forward together with a shared vision.”

Customer experience statement

Define what it is you want to deliver. This includes both physical exchanges and the emotional experience you want to convey to those who support your business.

Identify touch points

A touch point is any instance when a customer or prospective customer comes in contact and forms opinions about your business. Identify those touch points and manage the impressions they create. Along with direct interaction, touch points are as varied as advertising, sponsorships, your delivery van or a phone call.

Write a service standard

This is a system you can train a team against and use to continuously improve your customers’ experiences. “Standards create consistency, and consistency leads to customer loyalty.”

Measurement

Know how the team is performing. Are the standards being met or is more training and support required?

Continuous improvement

To maintain your competitive advantage, continue to meet and exceed your customers’ expectations. Creativity must be part of your customer experience culture. Encourage everyone to contribute ideas and reward them.

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