Have you been to a restaurant where the first meal was absolutely fantastic, the second meal the food was great but the service was dire and by the third meal the food was dire whilst the service was great? If you have then you know the feeling of trepidation at returning to such an eatery; you never know whether you will be completely satisfied with your meal. Customer service is no different regardless of what service or product you provide. If you cannot provide a consistent service, you will lose customers and valuable business. Providing consistent service means moving away from the the popular notion that customer service ends with the customer transaction and assuming that a satisfactory product or service is enough to retain the customer; It is about taking a holistic look at the purchase cycle ensuring that a consistent and outstanding service is provided at every stage of the customer journey.
Training – the key to giving consistent service:
The key to providing consistent service is to ensure that staff are well trained and understand why they need to abide by procedure. One key benefit of this to the customer is that when they approach your business at any time they will get a consistent response from staff. This is especially true for those working within contact centres. While a customer entering a retail outlet and speaking to branch staff might be able to recognise or request a meeting with the same member of staff ensuring that they get the same result each time, the same cannot be said with contact centres. Customers will often call up a contact centre for support receive one set of information and be told to call back after a period of time only to find that when they call back another agent gives them a different set of information. This can lead to the customer feeling frustrated, and the query not resolved. To make matters worse it can leave the customer feeling more confused then before they first called.
Regular readers of our blog know we have strongly advised that first contact resolution (FCR) wherever possible, is the ideal call centre standard. However in practice this is not always possible. There are occasions where first or second line agents are required to call customers back however this may not be cost effective and can easily eat into agent’s time. Effective training and communication within a call centre (and for departments employing customer facing staff) can reduce these scenarios; Up to date tailored training ensures that your staff understand all the situations that a customer will face, the procedures that should be used and the information that the customer needs to resolve their query.
If customers find themselves having to call back then regardless of whom they talk to the service will be consistent. This is so important for management to know. Inconsistencies in information given by staff are a risk to the business and can lead to some customers playing off one agent against another to secure an advantage.
“Times they are a changin”
When speaking of service consistency we have to recognise that things are constantly changing. Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher, as well as Bob Dylan more recently noticed, “there is nothing permanent except change”.
It is very apparent that technologies are changing, society is changing and even working conditions are changing. While training is invaluable to staff sometimes small changes can affect the way that the business process work. In these cases, it may be the customer who bears the brunt of inconsistent service levels. This may be unavoidable; however we can limit the impact these micro changes can have on our customers by improving the way we communicate within our business. With the use of email, mobile telephone, social networks and intranet keeping employees informed has never been potentially as easy; the same is especially true in the contact centre where agents have access to intranet and a contact centre platform providing them with the latest information on changes to business processes. This type of feature can be useful for call centre agents where it is not possible to resolve a customer’s query in the first instance. With the ability to leave notes one agent can inform another of what was said to the customer and ensure any action on the customer’s account remains consistent with advice given. Communication is all-important and not just within the context of consistent service. By using effective multi-level communication we can pro-actively inform customers of new products or in the worst-case scenario mitigate damage caused by faults within our product or service. A holistic evaluation of the customer experience can significantly differentiate our company with others providing a similar service.
For those that may have missed it, an example of this was given in our blog on the 18th of November. We highlighted a great story about how staff at the Four Seasons hotel are trained to notice small, almost imperceptible details that collectively combine to provide the desired customer experience. We learned that when the guest leaves their room the door lock is set precisely in order to produce a specific click sound. This click is reported to engender a feeling of confidence and security for the guest and is a valued component of the Four Seasons customer experience. House keeping staff noticed the door t was not clicking ‘just right’, reported it and maintenance fixed it. The repair was timed to occur whilst the guest was away. By focusing on the detail, which in this case may have been outside of the customer’s conscious awareness, staff can create an extraordinary customer experience.
In summary, build a culture where exceptional service is truly valued, give staff tailored training that addresses their core competencies, keep your processes updated and maintain service consistency and you will ensure that your customers leave with an experience they will remember, for all the right reasons.