QUALITY SERVICE, EXCELLENCE, benchmarking and best practice have become the fundamental rules of business today. Your customers are more demanding than ever and your service standards may make or break. Colin Pearce explains the realities of what it takes to keep them happy.
1 CUSTOMER SERVICE MANNERS ARE A PRIORITY
You know as well as I that getting it right for our customers is vital.
Think of a few companies that are all the rage in the news at the moment for their profitability and leadership, and you’ll find that they are also being heralded as benchmarkers in service and sales. And when you call them you’ll find there are real people who get it right on the phone.
Of course customer service is important, and telephone charisma is at the centre.
There’s an old Chinese proverb that says, ‘He who cannot smile should not keep shop.’ In the same spirit I say ‘He who cannot answer the telephone properly should not keep shop either.’
COMMIT TO THIS: Manners, charm and loving service on the telephone are important—a blood oath commitment from the heart of your organisation.
2 YOUR EXECUTIVES AND SENIOR PEOPLE MUST SET THE EXAMPLE
It’s not unusual for me to be hired by a company to fix their telephone service. They pay gobs of money to have me run programs and speak at conferences, and if I say so myself I do a good job.
But I tell you this: It works best, in fact it almost propels itself, when Mr Shiny Pants or Ms Toplady all agree and say, ‘All right, I’ve got a couple of weaknesses. Maybe I’m a bit casual. I do lose my way a bit too much on the phone. Maybe I’m impatient. Maybe I’ve got a bit rusty. Put the wire brush on me and get rid of the rusty spots.’
Where the executives model good telephone techniques they sweep through the organisation like brush fire. Get this installed through the whole team, from top to bottom and from east to west.
COMMIT TO THIS: Good customer service is not just for the team members on the lower rungs of the corporate ladder. It’s not one set of rules for the lords and ladies, and another for the peasants.
3 YOUR PEOPLE NEED TO BE TRAINED
You can’t expect that new people will pick up great telephone ideas out of the woodwork and run with them.
Star teams get that way, not just from excellent recruiting, but from excellent training. There is not a professional sports team or sports star, opera singer, band or orchestra in the world that does not train day in and day out.
Why is it that if they are the most talented and brilliant in their field they still train daily?
In the real world the universe and everything in it is wearing out and self-destructing. If you leave even the most brilliant people to their own judgement they will lose their skills and taper off.
Top companies and organisations train their people regularly and effectively.
COMMIT TO THIS: Set up a schedule and make sure you install what I am saying. It might mean that you have to bring somebody in to help you.
4 WE ARE DEALING TODAY WITH AN INFORMED MARKET. YOUR CALLERS EXPECT PROFESSIONAL TELEPHONE TECHNIQUES AND GOOD TELEPHONE MANNERS FROM YOU.
You’ve probably met one of those lucky individuals who have got the only game in town. He can have the worst customer service and the ugliest manners in the industry and people will still do business with him in spite of his own ineptitude – for now. But have no doubts about this: the day will come when a competitor will arrive who really understands business and they will eat him.
Today’s customers are more aware than at any other time in history that they have buyer’s rights. Little wonder that ordinary folks expect their rights not to be violated when they do business with you and me.
They are aware. They work for franchise companies who reward outstanding service; they see small business awards on TV; they have flown on classy airlines and bought flashy cars and stayed in fine resorts.
And know that, like you, 100 per cent of your customers are only interested in themselves. They’ll very quickly work out whether or not you and your people share the same interest.
COMMIT TO THIS: Resolve now to be alert to the fact that your customers are only interested in themselves.
5 IT TAKES TIME. SOMETIMES IT TAKES A LOT OF TIME.
We have to make time to get this right. It is urgent and important to install this kind of philosophy into our organisation and make sure that everybody follows the principles. Don’t lose another day before you plan a meeting where you drill telephone manners.
There is no set rule how to do it. Large organisations find it as difficult as you to pull people out during the day or to run after-hours meetings. You have to work out something that’s appropriate for you.
COMMIT TO THIS: You have to train your people. But you have to train them with the truth, not your own half-baked prejudices.
6 YOU MUST INSPECT WHAT YOU EXPECT
Following through on the training is important too. That’s right: ‘Inspect what you Expect’. You’ve got to ring your own office and each department at least three times a week.
Maybe you could ask mystery shoppers to do it for you. Are the words and attitudes right? You have to know.
I have a policy whereby I make mystery shopping dead easy. We want people to be caught in the act of doing it right, so they are encouraged and grow with the experience rather than feeling foolish.
Here’s what slaps my liver: a whole ton of people are so dedicated to being useless on the telephone they still get it wrong, even when the mystery shopper call is straight out of the textbook! You have to keep at it.
COMMIT TO THIS: Resolve now to call your phones, by one means or another, three times a week and develop a system where you can give feedback on the results.
7 GETTING THE TELEPHONE RIGHT TAKES EFFORT AND IT WILL PRODUCE TEMPORARY INCONVENIENCE AND PAIN
Whether it’s teaching your sports team a new system of ‘plays’ or getting a new inventory management system online, there are learning curves and crashes. In the end, though, this will prove to be far less painful than anything else you’ve had to change.
People are used to doing things a certain way and they’re particularly used to using certain phrases which are native to them. I’ve heard people say, ‘Oh, it’s just so different.’ ‘I couldn’t say that!’ ‘If I said that I’d sound like a robot.’ ‘Oh, I’m not used to saying this’ and ‘I’m quite happy with what I say, you know.’
That’s just the trouble. It’s Rafferty’s rules out there.
I have a system called Great Phone Skills that will get all your ducks lined up.