Nurturing a strong customer service culture is crucial to the success and longevity of your business. Here are some steps to help you achieve that all-important goal.
The standard of service you provide to your customers determines whether your business thrives or fails – and it all starts at the top. It’s as simple as that.
Providing the necessary management leadership is crucial to developing a healthy customer service culture within your business, irrespective of the number of staff employed.
Hiring people-oriented staff, informing them about the business’s products and services then ensuring they stay motivated is essential, says Tricia Olsen, founder and CEO of International Customer Service Professionals (ICSP).
Olsen strongly believes trust and a healthy outlook “on and off stage” will drive a good service culture.
“If staff are treated badly, that will show on the front desk,” she says. “Internal customer service – how staff treat each other – is very important.”
A lack of service culture has been the downfall of many businesses during the recent tough economic climate.
“Staff need to exert the right behaviour to look after the business’s clients; they need to care about the business and be proud of the products and services,” says Olsen.
“If they do not care about the business or its products, you see the results in a lack of productivity.”
Olsen offers five essential steps to instil and foster a service culture.
Recruit people who like people. “If you don’t have the right people to look after your customers then that is a problem.”
2. Training and development
Many businesses don’t put enough time into training and developing their people, and often place practices such as induction training in the big-business basket. “There is nothing more frustrating for a customer than a person on the front desk who does not know the product.”
Ongoing training is not undertaken as much as it should be either. “You can’t run around the block once and be fit for life; you need to train regularly. Talent management is very important to keep the best people.”
3. Recognition and reward
Give credit to staff where it is due. “Most service-oriented people want to please people, so recognition keeps them motivated.”
4. Performance management
Most businesses don’t performance-manage staff regularly, let alone on a day-to-day basis. A correct job description, regular performance reviews and list of KPIs are key to successful performance management.
5. Inspiring staff
It’s important for businesses to inspire and educate staff about what other organisations are doing from a service point of view. This can breathe life into service culture by sparking enthusiasm and new ideas.
Olsen believes these five fundamental steps can seriously improve the bottom line of a business.
It’s important to note, too, that the fundamentals of service culture are the same irrespective of whether the business is an online or bricks-and-mortar operation. Building a service culture that is consistent across different channels should be an important goal for all businesses, says Olsen.
“For example, organisations need to look at how to make a return policy acceptable for customers,” she explains. “Many businesses with just an online presence only have an email contact on their site.”
Learn more about taking the hassle out of the returns process here.
How to build a customer focus into your business
- Create a customer service environment aligned with your customers’ needs.
- Actively follow a customer service charter.
- Ensure your business’s policies provide for excellent customer service delivery.
- Have a holistic customer service strategy.
- Aim for high levels of staff satisfaction and reward staff for good customer service.
- Seek feedback from customers.
- Actively encourage quality service and continuous improvement.
- Comply with fair trading laws.
Source: Government of South Australia Office of Consumer and Business Affairs
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and the interviewees, and not of Australia Post.
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