What comes to mind when you hear the words “the North Star”? Bright and shining . . . steadfast . . . a guiding light . . . the brightest star.
Would your customers say that the service your business delivers is like the North Star . . . steadfast and a shining example of a quality customer service experience? Is your business the guiding light and model of what creates a quality experience?
Every day, customers call your company for a variety of reasons, most likely because they need someone to help them solve a problem, answer a question or take their order. The course of that conversation may determine whether the customer is willing to create a long-term relationship with your organization. Do your customers want to choose you above the rest?
Each one of your customers is an individual and, therefore, each one has different needs. The skills your employees demonstrate either meet your customer’s needs or not. From their greeting to the expressed appreciation to the customer for their business, your employees’ front-line performance can make the difference between a loyal customer or one who dials the next phone number looking for a business that will give them what they want, the business that will be the brightest star in the sky!
Set the standard – Train every employee on how each customer should be greeted. Role play with employees to make sure they have first-hand experience as to what the standard means. Does each employee clearly understand why that standard is important? One of the Hilton Hotel’s standards states that “Calls will be on hold for 30 seconds or less. After 30 seconds, the caller will be given the option to hold or receive a return call.”
Customer feedback – Implement a system to measure the customer service experience from the customer’s point of view. Unfortunately, it only takes one poor experience to convince your customer they should take their business elsewhere. Ask your customers what is working well and what needs improvement and then share this feedback with your employees.
Become a coach – John Wooden was one of the greatest collegiate basketball coaches in history. Wooden kept diaries on each of his players. He kept track of the small improvements he felt they could make and then, at the end of practice, he would share these thoughts with each player. His unique insight and his unprecedented achievements – a .806 winning percentage, 19 conference championships, 10 national championships, seven straight national tiles and four unbeaten seasons – have stood the test of time. What a North Star!
Enlist your managers to be coaches to their employees. You need to be your managers’ North Star. Guide them by providing the training that will give them the skills they need to work with frontline employees. Include training on ways to improve negative behavior and conflict resolution.
Recognition – Recognition is a powerful tool! The sad truth is that many companies do nothing beyond base pay to recognize their employees for performance above and beyond. Implement a recognition program to reward employees for exceeding your standards. Reward them for handling difficult situations with customers.
For a winning combination, recognition should be both private and public – a hand-written thank-you note, a letter to the employee’s family or a plaque or trophy with their name engraved are all simple ways to recognize stellar performance. And don’t forget that timing is everything! To have impact, the recognition needs to be as soon as possible after the demonstrated behavior.
Make it fun – Employees deal with customers who are in a variety of emotional states ranging from one end of the spectrum to the other. Every day, they are faced with solving the customer’s problem. Teach them how to handle emotional issues and how to create solutions to a customer’s problem.
You have an opportunity to demonstrate to your staff how much you value them by also teaching them how to reduce their stress level at work. Provide an area where they can unwind. Create fun breaks where they can forget about that last frustrating experience.
Your employees are the key to long-term customer loyalty and repeat and referral business. Your investment to improve your employees’ skills and attitude will have a direct, positive impact on your bottom line. Are you dedicated to providing North Star service?
David Saxby is president of Measure-X, a Phoenix-Ariz.-based measurement, training and recognition company that specializes in customer service skills and employee retention.