The fourth article in the Radiating Customer Services Series.
One of the key ingredients to Radiating Customer Service is to project a positive customer attitude. Our attitude is not something that can be bought. It’s ours and how we project it makes all the difference in our relationship with our customers. This article focuses on two things: 1) claiming the importance of your work as customer service representative, and 2) managing your attitude.
The importance of your work, a positive image, and personal self-esteem coupled with personal knowledge, skills, abilities, experience, values, attitudes and habits (KSAE’VAH), bring the “I” factor to customer service.
The importance of my work
The ‘I’ factor is really you at your core self. How the “I” aligns with your work is critically important to your success. Alignment with work really comes about when you see yourself fully alive in mind, body, and spirit and steer yourself with a personal focus (purpose), a sense of discipline and sound interpersonal relationships. You then can have a sense of passion about yourself and your work and contribute to the organization’s strategies, structure, culture and values. (Based on the work of Stephen Covey)
Once your “I” recognizes the “power” you have within yourself, which comes from a deep spiritual connection to a spiritual source, and how that connects with what you do, then purpose, passion and values become truly alive for us in our everyday action. When this occurs, you can then move from just “doing the job,” to being “fully alive in my job.”
The sense of pride and accomplishment comes from doing the best work you can do – no matter what the job happens to be. A sense of confidence comes from having product knowledge and the skills to do the job.
We are who we are because of our KSAE’VAHs all of which may be strengthened or weakened by what we do, who we associate with and what we say. Studies show that people respond positively when they encounter a positive attitude, respect and self-regard. To become a “star” in customer service we need to be knowledgeable and skilled in our work and to err on the side of positive values, attitudes and habits.
Our feelings make a difference in the customer service profession and the quality of our work. Sometimes we are reluctant to talk about our feelings and the significance they have in our daily activities. We need to understand that our feelings are easily telegraphed to others, just as we pick up the attitudes and moods of others. We really can’t hide them.
We all have bad days and they affect the way we approach our day. When we are in a bad mood sometimes we have a tendency to try to hide it and not tell others what is bothering us. The reality is that the way we feel is often telegraphed to others through our demeanor and body language. We think we are camouflaging them, but we are not. People often see through the façade.
Bad moods don’t go away automatically we have to work on them. We can talk to a trusting person about them and garner their support as we work through difficult moments. Other times we may need expert help. Don’t be afraid to seek ‘help’. Other times, we can deal with them ourselves by facing them head on and reinforcing our own mood behavior. The first step towards dealing with mood swings is viewing ourselves as ok.
First, Feel good about yourself.
Our success in dealing with others comes from our success in dealing with ourselves. We can give positive vibes if we feel good about receiving positive vibes ourselves. We can complement people if we can handle them ourselves. The reverse is true as well if we are uncomfortable receiving complements we will be uncomfortable giving compliments. Take the time to:
Second: Add a Smile
A smile is a simple thing to do. It doesn’t cost us much yet enriches those who receive it. A smile takes a moment to give and nourishes relationships in business and in friendships. Often customer service personnel meet people who are weary, seem discouraged, sad or troubled. They can recognize this because of the customer’s body language or from their tone of voice. A warm smile brings those people comfort and a bit of cheer. The customer service representative can give away a smile freely and adds value to the person receiving it.
Sometimes our customers are too tired to give us a smile, give them one of yours. Sometimes we are too tired to give a smile, turn to a colleague and receive a smile from them.
“A smile of welcome calms a worried or harassed customer.
A smile reassures customers that a problem can be solved.
A smile leaves a pleasurable glow when people take their leave”
Third: Present a Professional Image
How we present ourselves relates to our self-confidence, attitude and feelings of self-worth. Simply put, how we project ourselves outwardly reflects who we want to become inwardly. If we have a sense of low self-worth we project ourselves accordingly; if we have a high regard of self, we project that demeanor. Customers want to deal with customer representatives who project themselves as knowledgeable, positive and helpful. Here are seven hints to presenting yourself appropriately:
Remember: It’s not your customers job to remember you, but your job to make sure they don’t have a chance to forget you.
Pilot to co-pilot please run down the check list before we take off!
Before a pilot takes off down the runway, he confers with his co-pilot who runs down a check list to assess whether everything is in order before take off. Here is your check list before you pick up the telephone or step in front of a customer.
Thanks for reading,
Richard P. Fontanie
The third article in the series Radiating Customer Service.
A Customer Service Charter clearly outlines a company’s approach to customer service. It sets the expectations for everyone in the organization and what customers can expect from them.
We have learned that customer service involves everyone one in the organization and all have responsibility for: shared ownership, total customer management and a positive impact.
A charter for customer service usually includes these four elements:
1. Organization’s purpose for customer service
2. Principles or values within which service personnel are expected to operate
3. Standards as a benchmark against which actual performance may be measured
4. Measurements for success which give the basis for performance accountability
Customer Service Purpose
A customer service purpose gives everyone in the organization or in a team a sense of direction and a rallying call for action. Once understood each customer service personnel can then take ownership and translate the statement into their day to day practice. Here are a few examples of customer service missions:
• “To take ownership of each call, manage each request correctly, dispatch efficiently and communicate to ensure the customer’s complete satisfaction” A Call Center
• “To provide a positive, seamless, accurate experience for all internal and external customers; we do this to ensure the safety of the public.” A Professional Regulatory Body
• “The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and company spirit.”
• “At Sit ‘n Sleep, we believe that you, the customer, are our greatest asset. We are dedicated to creating positive experiences for you – both inside our stores and out….”
• “Irvine Scientific is committed to provide courteous, professional and superior service to our customers and internal departments that we are privileged to serve.”
• “Employees solve customer puzzles.” Best Buy
Customer Service Values
Values are statements of beliefs which we hold as having intrinsic worth and want to preserve. They are qualities we want to live by. Customer Service values express the way we treat customers. They are also the way we want to be treated. Here are some examples:
• Treat customers with dignity, respect and courtesy.
• Listen earnestly and objectively to the needs of customers.
• Respond to customers in a timely, efficient and responsible manner.
• Provide excellent customer service.
• We are committed to achieving the highest customer satisfaction.
Customer Service Standards
Customer standards are established to provide consistency in providing service. It is essential for delivering a product or service where quality is number one. The question is: How rigidly should customer service personnel follow the standard?
There are usually three types of standards:
• Rigid standards which allow for no deviation, for example: all telephone calls must be returned within two hours.
• Flexible standards which allow employees to adjust the standard based on guidelines, for example: all telephone calls must be returned within two hours however if time doesn’t permit because you are serving other customers then use your discretion in returning the call.
• Total discretion which allows employees to decide on the spot a best service solution, for example: the timing of returning a telephone call is left up to the employee as long as customers are satisfied
Writing down standards of service provides consistency in approach for all those involved and gives a basis for performance discussions with individuals as to how they are adhering to them.
Measurements for Success
Successful companies have developed dashboards to monitor customer service outcomes. They collect raw data and know how many customers were served, what they bought, what the return rate was on each product, where they live within their marketplace, whether they purchased on-line or in a brick and mortar retail outlet.
They also have developed systematic ways of measuring customer satisfaction for example: using surveys, focus groups, round table discussions with customers and employees, on the spot requests (i.e. stopping customers they shop and asking about their level of service satisfaction).
Successful companies also ensure employees receive on-going customer service training. Customer service training usually entails a review of the company Customer Service Charter, approaches to different types of customers, telephone and email etiquette, listening skills, dealing with difficult customer situations, dealing with customers with different cultural expectations, use of body language, and professional image.
Questions to Explore
Does our company or organization have a Customer Service Charter? If not, should we have one? Do we measure our customer service outcomes? Do we have a dashboard of raw data pertaining to customers? Do we have customer service standards? Does everyone know what they are? How do we know our customers are satisfied with our services? Do we have a consistent and regular customer service training program?
Thank you for Reading,
Richard P. Fontanie
Since customer service is such an important aspect of business, I will be writing articles over the course of the next several months on this topic. The articles may be a refresher for some, and I hope will provide new ways to improve service for others. Let's begin.
Businesses need customers. Yet, experience suggests that customer service is not always right within businesses. We hear complaints from customers concerning: poor face-to-face service, negative telephone etiquette, inappropriate handling of complaints, and bored customer service personnel. However, when quality customer service is provided we learn that customers are happy, moral is enhanced, the business is well regarded, and the business's bottom line is improved.
When I facilitated customer service workshops business owners consistently told me, after customer service training and after all other factors were eliminated, their revenue was increased by 6-12 percent. This suggests Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) can turn negative approaches to customer service into positive ones.
Who are our Customers
Customers come to us in two ways. The first and most obvious way is through our doors, the internet, emails and over the telephone. These are our coveted external customers. The second way, and not so obvious, is through our organization. They are people we work with daily. They are our internal customers including our boss, manager, team leader, and colleagues. When we relate to customers whether internally or externally our responsibility remains the same which is to treat them with kindness, respect and dignity.
We are all customers as each of us purchase goods or services from others. When we, as a customer, enter any type of business, we want to be treated fairly, respectfully, and honestly. We expect those who serve us know something about the products, listen to our needs and wants, and approach us with a positive and optimistic attitude. We remember these people. The same is true for customers who enter our place of business. They remember the CSRs who treated them well. This exchange between the customer and those who serve is one of the heart – it touches the level of feelings. Maya Angelou put it this way, “People will forget what you said...People will forget what you did...But people will never forget how you made them feel."
So, what we do, how we do it, and how it makes us feel, influences our relationships with customers; and, it appears there is little difference between what we expect as a customer and what our customers expect of us. When FACSi(a) researched what customers expected from CSRs it found they wanted: quality service, a listening ear, an optimistic attitude, positive approach, and solutions to their problems or at least a referral to where service may be obtained. It also found that customers expect service providers to be knowledgeable, well organized, honest, and fair.
There is something else going on with today's customers, and that is their relationship with the internet. With the advent of the internet customers have access to information about the products they want and hence are more knowledgeable about them. Sometimes because of their "Google" search they know more about the product than the CSR. They often know where the products come from, what they are made of, how they are made, whether they are ethically produced and how they compare with other products.
Customers are also more discerning in their choice of service and are looking for a positive customer experience, want a personal touch, seek quality products and value for money. They will go where their needs are met, so it is increasingly important for businesses and CSRs to meet these evolving customer requirements. (For more on this see my article on "The Emerging Retail Experience.)
As businesses provide better service expectations increase and in turn customers expect an increase in the level of service. Someone once said: “Every experience we have as a customer sets a benchmark against which the next experience is judged. This means that we expect better and better service." Darrell Rigby put it this way, "Each wave of change doesn't eliminate what comes before it, but it reshapes the landscape and redefines consumer expectations, often beyond recognition. Retailers relying on earlier formats either adapt or die out."
This suggests that each time businesses improve the customer experience, customers will come back to the business. It also suggests the businesses must consistently up-grade everyone in the organization to meet new and emerging customer expectations..
What is Customer Service
Now we come to the basic question: Just what is customer service?
Customer Service simply refers to managing all those points of exchange between the customer and the business. These exchanges are often called “moments of truth”. They determine whether the customer will be pleased or not. So, every time someone meets an internal or external customer, customer service begins.
The CSR, in whatever position, is the conduit through which the organization is known, and is for the customer the ‘face’ of the organization. Every time an individual meets a customer the stage is set for an impression of service and a “moment of truth” (first coined by Jan Carlzon, president of the Scandinavian Airline SAS). The complete sequence of “moments of truth” – all those acts performed by those who contribute to the customer experience- become known as the full “cycle of service”.
Moments of truth may occur hundreds of times within the cycle of service, for example the cycle of service could include: the customers perception of how the manufacturer packaged the goods and how they are showcased on the shelves; how the customer relates to the store environment and how the CSR treats the customer over the telephone, when he browses for items, approaches the counter, refers the customer to someone else, or when the customer pays for the goods. The cycle of service covers the whole of the customer experience. The Scandinavian Airline discovered more than 50,000 occasions when staff interacted with customers. Each interaction became a “moment of truth.”
In any given day of service, the CSRs can enhance moments of truth by: wishing someone a “nice day,” paying attention to detail, making the most of a bad experience, saying "thank you" as if they mean it, and remembering a regular customer's name. This is common courtesy and just being kind to people, one person at a time.
Author: Richard P. Fontanie
My next article will explore the types of relationships we have with customers