Does Your Company Have A Customer Service Strategy?
By Steve Schmidt
Most companies like to say they provide great customer service and deliver it with integrity, but what does that really mean? Does your team understand what your expectations as a leader are? Have you created a customer service strategy that defines those expectations?
As leaders, we hope and expect that our employees are acting with integrity and delivering exceptional service, whether they’re working with external or internal customers. But we don’t always do a good job of defining these terms and what they mean in terms of everyday behaviors. And if we’re leaving things open to interpretation, there’s a good chance we’re not consistently living up to those values when it matters most.
So here’s a question to ponder: Do your employees know the basics of good behavior? Sure, they know the obvious rules—don’t falsify documents, don’t surf inappropriate websites, don’t share trade secrets. But what about the more subtle “rules” that aren’t covered in the employee handbook?
For example, do they know not to speak to customers in a bored or impatient tone? Do they know not to get defensive when someone’s describing their problem? Do they know not to jump to conclusions about what the issue or need actually is?
You may think these sound like common-sense fundamentals of customer communication. But in our experience, they’re not so commonly applied.
Not only is it important for your business and the customers you serve to have everyone behaving in appropriate ways, it’s important for morale. If you don’t spell out which behaviors are acceptable and which are not, you can’t hold people accountable for them. And if people aren’t clear on what’s expected of them, you won’t be able to build a sustainable culture that’s rooted in integrity and customer service.
Implementing A Customer Service Strategy
A simple and amazingly effective solution to this issue is to make your customer service strategy a “Standards of Behavior” agreement. Have everyone, from CEO to receptionist, sign it. This document can address any and all aspects of behavior at work, from interaction with clients and colleagues to email etiquette to “good manners” (e.g., saying thank you) to “positive attitude” markers (e.g., smiling and eye contact).
Here are some tips to get you started on implementing a customer service strategy and incorporating it into a Standards of Behavior agreement for your company that instills integrity into every interaction.
Get Employee Input To Guide The Strategy
Do not have Human Resources write it and impose it on everyone else. Instead, put together a cross-functional “Service Team” to spearhead the initiative and create the first draft.
Be sure that everyone has a chance to review the document and provide input before it’s finalized. Buy-in requires company-wide participation.
Customer Service Strategy Through The Standards of Behavior
Take a look at your organization’s long-term goals and areas that need improvement, and make sure the content of your Standards of Behavior supports and promotes these outcomes. This is especially relevant where staff performance is constantly measured and rated by customers.
The strategy needs to be clear and specific.
Keep in mind, what’s obvious to you isn’t necessarily obvious to everyone else. Sometimes people really, truly don’t know.
Rather than a statement like “Display a positive attitude,” make your standards tangible by identifying specific behaviors you expect to see. For example, you might say, “Smile, make eye contact and call people by name.”
Once finalized, hold a Standards of Behavior rollout
Conduct an employee forum or company-wide meeting to introduce the standards and distribute pledges for everyone to sign.
Create an event around your CEO and leadership team signing the pledge, and be sure everyone signs it. It’s amazing how much more seriously people take rules once they’ve signed on the dotted line.
Develop activities to educate employees about some of the points and integrate them into other customer service training programs you’re implementing.
Consider highlighting a designated “standard of the month” to boost ongoing awareness and get people thinking about how that specific one applies to their day-to-day work.
Hold people accountable when they violate standards
The whole point of the document is to set consistent expectations and accountability, so make sure all employees know they will be held accountable for the behaviors outlined in the Standards of Behavior document.
How you do this will depend on the situation. Sometimes, a simple meeting with the employee highlighting the specific standard is all you need to do to remind them of their commitment to the pledge they signed. Other times, stronger disciplinary measures may need to be taken.
Reinforcing Your Customer Service Strategy
One of the great things about a Standards of Behavior document is that it can be used as a learning tool. It keeps the customer service strategy on track and top of mind. Because the standards are specific and articulated in everyday terms, they’re also highly practical. Departments can use them to work through real-life situations with clients and explore ways to handle common challenges when dealing with dissatisfied or angry customers.
Through this process, and as your company grows and evolves in new directions over time, you may also discover new standards are needed or that you need to refine what you have. Make changes as necessary. Your Standards of Behavior should be a “living document” that serves your company’s customer service strategy and reinforces the culture you want to perpetuate.
Ultimately, a Standards of Behavior document will encourage people to do their best and be their best. When everyone is adhering to the right standards and working toward a common goal, morale improves. Job performance improves. Customer satisfaction improves. Profitability improves.
And to think, it all begins with a piece of paper! Start working on your Standards of Behavior today. It will take you one giant leap closer to becoming a world-class organization