? Customer Service Training: Ten Steps To Improved Customer Service Skills

Ten Commandments Of Legendary Service

Customer Service Training Programs:

Our customer service training workshop teaches by doing with less than 15% lecture and 85% hands on activities. Participants learn by Doing and not by being told. Exercises are practical, realistic, fun and are skill based.

To maximize your customer service teams effectiveness we suggest our custom, private customer service training courses offered in house at the location of your choice, usually in groups of 6 or more.

Contact us for a free consultation on how we can best service your training needs.

Program Objectives:

In our Exceptional Customer Service one-day training workshop participants will:

  • Understand how to handle inquiries and/or complaints in ways that create improved, lasting relationships with your customers or clients.
  • Learn to promote positive "chemistry" between your company and your clients by recognizing and responding to the needs of each individual.
  • Learn how to handle doubt, misunderstandings, and objections.
  • Acquire techniques for seeing issues from clients' perspectives, creating value-adding options for clients, and making sure clients recognize the added value they are getting.
  • Learn how to gain agreement from clients and reinforce mutually satisfying long-term relationships.

Customer Service Training:
Ten Steps To Improved Customer Service Skills

Improving the quality of your customer service requires commitment and consistent effort from everyone.

Since creating a product that is unique in the eyes of the customer is becoming increasingly difficult in today's competitive environment more companies are relying on customer service to achieve competitive advantages. Outstanding customer service companies share some basic similarities, but they also customize systems, structures, management styles and employment practices so suit their strategic goals.

To improve the quality of your customer service takes the following 10 steps:

Make a commitment to customer service.

The return on investment for companies that impress their customers with value added customer service can be staggering. These returns are not the result of providing excellent customer service but of customers perceiving that a company delivers customer service that is unique. Achieving quality customer service takes a serious commitment from every employee in the organization to remove the "s" word (satisfy) from customer service goals and instead work to exceed customers' expectations to the point that customers are willing to tell others.

Develop a proactive recovery strategy.

The quickest way to improve your customer service reputation is to improve your recovery process. Customers are impressed by companies that make an empathetic, hassle free effort to recover when customers perceive that they received less customer service than they expected. These efforts dramatically communicate to customers that the company cares, that it is sensitive to the customer's business and that it will stand behind its product or customer service - no matter what. An effective recovery strategy requires going all out to find disgruntled customers.

Ensure continuous improvement.

Effective customer service improvement is the cumulative effect of a thousand small improvements made daily at every level in the organization. It often requires changing the culture from one that accepts the status quo to one that is excited about change and continuous improvement. Innovating customer service practices and redefining customer service delivery must be everyone's job -start small and demand improvement from everyone. Define success as continually improving in all areas, including customer service, first-time quality, cost reduction, productivity and development of human resources.

Listen to customers.

Listening is the foundation of all good relationships and a prerequisite to business success. But surprisingly few companies systematically listen to customers, suppliers, employees and competitors. The radical customer service improvements needed in this decade will require better customer information systems. The more we know about a customer's business, the easier we can form strategic partnerships. Because customer service professionals spend so much time with customers, they must be the primary source for developing and updating the system.

Facilitate change.

Service problems are leadership problems, often resulting from management's unwillingness to change structures, reduce the number of inflexible policies and procedures, set higher customer service goals for themselves and their work groups and spend more time on customer-related issues. Customer service improvement efforts fail more from ineffective management practices than from lack of front-line effort. Yes, the front-line people are often unwilling or unable to take risks necessary to embrace their changed role and enthusiastically deliver customer service that consistently exceeds customer expectations. But this happens because leaders fail to ensure that:

1) Desired customer service outcomes are well defined;
2) the customer service delivery process is clearly communicated and perceived to be flexible;
3) guiding principles and core values are established; and 4) everyone understands their role in the show.

Define the playing field.

Front-line employees must understand the rules of play and how to win before they can successfully customize customer service for the customer. There must be a clearly defined direction (a goal-line that indicates how to score) and predefined parameters (the "rules" or boundaries) that outline the limits of responsibility and decision making. In the past, outlining boundaries has been accomplished primarily by correcting mistakes. Unfortunately, this does not communicate what is desirable, only what is out of bounds. When employees are not secure, they focus on avoiding problems and mistakes and not on creativity and customization. This uncertainty often results in such responses as "I'd like to help you but it’s not my job," "I just work here, "or "It's just our policy." These responses are the consequence of a risky customer service culture created by uncertain boundaries and inconsistent goals.

Provide autonomy.

Creative, dedicated, enthusiastic customer service professionals who routinely make business decisions and improvise when necessary are the foundation of excellent customer service. Yet many companies ignore the benefits of engaging the talents of their work force. Too often they ask front-line employees to park their brains at the front door and blindly obey pre-determined policies and procedures. Serious customer service improvement involves people meaningfully in every aspect of customer service delivery, including customer service planning. Innovation and process improvement. It means replacing many "rules" with judgment, allowing for greater flexibility in front-line decision-making within well defined parameters. It requires more trust between leaders, employees and their unions, a greater sharing of information and an unprecedented commitment to continuous education. The heroes in a customer-focused culture must be highly trained, enthusiastic front-line customer service professionals who make hundreds! Of decisions daily to deliver a customized product faster than ever before.

Measure performance.

Managers must educate everyone to routinely measure all of the responsibilities crucial to success. Cost-reduction measures should be balanced with measures of customer service, quality and leadership, employee flexibility and continuous improvement. The most valid measures of customer service quality are the subjective opinions of customers. Only customers can evaluate customer service in light of their unique expectations. Consequently, responsibility for measuring and demonstrating continuous customer service improvement should be focused closer to the customer service professional. Only when customer service teams are actively involved in every facet of the customer service business, including measurement of quality, can organizations capture the creativity and enthusiasm needed to radically enhance customer service delivery.

Hold everyone accountable.

When we ask, "Who is responsible for customer service improvement in your organization?” we are usually given the names of several people whose responsibilities cross many functional areas. When customer service problem surfaces, these people point out that the root cause of the problem exists with another group This "fragmented accountability" is no accountability at all, Until a single person is accountable for customer service improvement and until serious personal consequences are set for failing to achieve customer service goats, continuous customer service improvement is unlikely. Lack of individual accountability allows leaders to avoid focusing on ineffective managerial practices, such as adhering to time-wasting routines, attending endless meetings, failing to set goals that test their talents and failing to change ineffective reporting and promotional structures. If all employees were held personally accountable for influencing the perception of the customer, customer service wow! LD is perceived as a part of the strategic plan instead of a "slogan" or theme program.

10. Celebrate success.

Every organization must develop a culture of celebrated discontent - a simultaneous feeling of accomplishment and a desire to improve. Too often, though, organizations create an almost schizophrenic "either/or" mentality celebrate one minute and be emphatically discontent the next. People find these environments confusing and uncomfortable. Organizations must celebrate often, making the celebrations sincere and spontaneous. Those who consistently demonstrate improvement must become the heroes.

These 10 fundamentals will help create a culture of continuous customer service improvement. Companies must define success for everyone in the organization as continually improving everything - everyday. Nothing less will do.

by Rick Tate and Gary Heil

Article Content: Customer Service Skills

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