Monday Mornings with Madison

CUSTOMER SERVICE ON STEROIDS, PART 1

HEARING AND LISTENING 

 There are lots of things that companies do to motivate employees to ‘do their best’, ‘act their best’ and ‘be their best.’  Some common ones include setting performance objectives, offering rewards, paying bonuses, and organizing games to hit targets.  Some companies use pride as a way to motivate staff to do better.  After all, pride is one of the most powerful forces in business. These are all good ideas that work.  If your company wants to improve customer service, that’s a good place to start. 

But customer service is not only about how employees interact with customers (although that’s definitely a big part of it), it is also about the company’s overall strategies and approach to dealing with customers.  That includes knowing the customer’s needs and wants, and then servicing those needs and wants as completely and consistently as possible. 

After all, if bad customer service is bad for business, then it stands to reason that good customer service should keep existing customers happy and may even win new customers.  Here are some customer service strategies focused on hearing and listening that validate this theory. 

1.  Hear What Your Customers Hear

In many cases, the first contact a customer has with a company is by phone.  Also, most customer service complaints are usually handled by phone.  Phone reps are an integral part of many businesses.  The question is:  do you know how your staff behaves when on the phone with clients?  Maybe… maybe not.

One way companies are finding out is by listening.  Indeed, “This call may be monitored for quality and training purposes.” is a growing mantra on phone systems.  Some companies are either hiring a call monitoring firm, such as Random Communications, J. Lodge, and Who’s Calling, to listen to calls between employees and customers, or buying the equipment and handling it inhouse.  Incidentally, the courts have determined that it is legal for employers to monitor calls with clients or customers for reasons of quality control. 

The goal is to fine-tune operations; not spy on staff.  Still, listening to a three-minute phone call can be a customer service revelation to many employers.  If you are sure your staff would never do such things, think again. Call monitoring firms report hearing a spectrum of bad employee behavior, from mildly poor communication skills such as mumbling, slurring speech, lack of knowledge, uncooperativeness and snippy comments to outright rude behavior such as yelling, swearing, and hanging up on clients.  Outside vendors can monitor a company’s calls on an ongoing basis or as a one-time audit. 

One insurance agency in Dallas, Texas used a call monitoring system to see how their reps were servicing customers by phone.  A vendor was hired to do an audit.  Calls were recorded and analyzed by the leadership.  With the information gathered, the agency implemented a training seminar on how to close a phone deal.  They also hired a speech coach to help some staff speak more clearly and audibly.  Within two months, 47% of their phone reps increased their deal conversion by at least 10%, which was far more than the cost of the audit.

Despite the available technology and the growing need to monitor customer service, only about 2% of customer calls are actually monitored.  For companies that have a large volume of callers, call monitoring can provide insights into how to deliver consistently good customer service.

2.  Listen To What Your Customers Want

Here is a truth about business and customer service.  The bigger a company gets, the less contact the owners or leadership have with its customers. Upper level management has more pressing matters — problems to solve, deals to close, financing to arrange, staff to manage, etc. etc. Employees handle the day-to-day relationships with customers.  Unfortunately, that tends to undermine even the most promising companies.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.

There are companies where the top level managers make a point to still listen to their customers.  Case in point.  Jet Blue founder David Neeleman still makes a point to board and ‘work’ on flights in order to talk to customers.  He routinely (which means about once a month) gets on board a flight and works as a flight attendant.  While he does serve some snacks and drinks, mostly what he does is to go from row to row, meeting and speaking with every customer on the flight.  That is how Jet Blue got the idea of putting individual televisions on their flights and are now getting ready to provide WiFi. 

Why would the CEO of a thriving, growing airline do that?  Because he wants it to continue to be a thriving, growing airline.  To ensure that happens, he wants to hear what customers want from an airline.  He listens to what his customers want.  Listening to customers may not be a novel concept, but it is a pretty rare concept among CEOs of multi-million dollar organizations.   In fact, it is pretty rare among Presidents, Chairmen, Vice Presidents, and managers at the top of the food chain.

If a company wants to grow and thrive, the best way is to give customers what they want. 
To know what that is, just ask.  Attend a meeting with an existing client and ask what your company can do to service them better.  Customers will tell you.  Then, if at all possible, do it.

Next week, we’ll look at some more companies who put their Customer Service on steroids that resulted in pumped up sales and customer satisfaction.  Don’t miss it!

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Rule number one: The customer is always right. Rule number two: If the customer is wrong, see rule number one!” Steve Leonard

© 2010 – 2012, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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