Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Customer Service - there's more!

It was interesting to note that one of the TV Channels in Sydney ran a piece on customer service last evening. They looked at the difference between what the various major grocery retail chains promised in their advertising about service and what they actually delivered. The results were not what any of the organisations involved really wanted. The TV program seemed to imply that this was a training issue.

I have 2 daughters who supplement their university studies by working as casuals in the retail industry. They see the issue as being a little more complex - and I think they're right. They think the problem involves 3 things - application of policy, training of employees, and customer behaviour.

First, customer behaviour.

One of the things that frustrates my daughters is customers who refuse service - customers who seem to be in such a hurry that any attempt to provide information is treated with rudeness and, sometimes, offensive behaviour. Generally these seem to be the customers who want to push ahead of anyone else who may be waiting or is even being served and for whom the entire matter of a sales transaction seems to be the worst thing in the world. "Get enough of these in a shift," I was told, "and its easy to forget that you have a primary role to help the customer."

Second, training of employees.

This really is a critical matter. As a customer I am often frustrated when sales assistants seem to show no interest in what they are selling and even less interest in me. Its as though they are simply going through the motions of "customer service" without really believing in what they are doing.

The easy response to this is to say that he or she has an "attitude problem". But that simply isn't true. The person involved has a behaviour problem - they are not doing what they have been trained to do - and that is all about behaviour. The fact is that, like most other people, I'm not really concerned about what a salesperson thinks of me or of the goods or services they are selling. That's their business. What I am concerned about is how they relate to me - and that is behavioural. Organisations need to ensure that their employees are properly trained to deliver good customer service no matter what they may think or what they may be feeling.

Application of Policy.

This is where the role of management becomes critical. Leaders and managers have a responsibility to create an environment in which their staff can be successful. And this is the key area in which most fall down. Unless those in leadership positions model the appropriate behaviour, they cannot complain when their staff fall short of desired standards. This is where the examples I used in my earlier blog on customer service stand out. Both Trevor at Fantastic Furniture and Mark at Jaxquickfit Tyres were leaders who demonstrated the behaviour their organisations wanted in relation to customer service. Its no wonder that the people who replaced my son's bed and the technicians who worked on my car continued the practice of good customer service - they saw it in their leaders.

Another part of this application of policy is recognition of "you get what you reward". Some years ago Ken Blanchard in "The One Minute Manager" wrote "surprise someone: catch them doing something right!" Attention from a leader is a very powerful means of recognition and reward. In your organisation where do you place the most emphasis? Do you pay more attention to what person does right ..... or to what they do wrong?

You cannot affect the way a customer relates to you. But you can affect how you relate to any and every customer - and that's the key to good customer service.

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