The front line employees are often the representatives who will have to make decisions when it comes to customer complaints, customer questions, and overall customer satisfaction. The art of customer service stretches well beyond the product, the prices, and the reliability of an organization. It encompasses everything about a business - right down to the allowed 140 Twitter characters. Even after the purchase, and as the economy stresses even more budgets, that "after" part of purchases become even more critical. Customer service, therefore has to extend beyond what was expected just a few years ago when homes were worth twice as much, when jobs were plentiful, and when buying was a fun thing to do at a whim.
Employees need to be trained and given the proper skills so that each and every customer they deal with will only want to use your particular organization over and over. So how is that done?
Businesses need to empower employees with the right training and encouragement. Starting with special training, customer service agents need to be able to understand beyond the manual set in front of them while they trouble shoot a particular product. For instance, I was having trouble with a coffee maker, and the first representative I spoke with had me do a simple test to determine if the water line was clogged. Because this is the second coffee maker I have had with the same problem, I already engaged myself to do the test, but the service representative was too rigid to by pass this particular time-consuming step - even though I had been through the same problem with the previous machine.
As a customer, I was not pleased until I asked for a supervisor who actually looked back into my record from the previous coffee maker and apologized. What did I learn from this experience? Employees need to have training that enables them to troubleshoot, and be able to use their own discretion. There needs to be a complete section of troubleshooting tips on any organization's website, and companies need to be more proactive when it comes to product failures and needed modifications.
Besides formal training and training assessments, new information has to be shared with employees and refresher courses given in a timely manner to remind service representatives what has been going on and what they can do to build customer satisfaction and loyalty. Some companies are now offering continuing education, whether it is a corporate training, in-house program or tuition reimbursement at local colleges for staff members who want to progress in the company.
And a great way to encourage employees to reach for the stars? Use positive reinforcement when employees step out of the box in positive ways. Encourage new ideas, and show enthusiasm for a job well done.