If you think back to when you saw your house for the very first time, you probably remember seeing things that needed to be fixed: a crack in the basement wall, the light fixture that was just a little crooked, the kitchen hinge that wasn’t quite right. But after you moved in, suddenly you were able to walk past all those things without being bothered by them. In fact, you almost forgot about them.
The same thing happens with your customers. Since they aren’t walking in the door every day, they notice things that aren’t up to par, and they make judgments about your organization based on those observations. If your company doesn’t have customer service systems and standards that are uniform and based upon customers’ expectations, chances are your customers are noticing things about your organization that aren’t acceptable to them.
There’s an easy approach to tuning up your customer service and giving it a consistent look so that your customers can expect to always receive high-quality service. This simple five-step system will dramatically improve your service:
Identify your perception points.
Every time a customer encounters anyone or anything from your organization, he or she forms a perception. It could be good or bad, depending on how well that perception point met the customer’s standards.
Examples of perception points include telephone conversations, correspondence, greetings, billings—anything that presents an opportunity for the customer to make a judgment about your organization. Identify all of your company’s perception points. Simply ask yourself, At what times are customers given the opportunity to form an impression of us? List them.
For each perception point, list your standards of performance.
These are the minimum standards that everyone working in your organization should meet consistently. The standards should be definable and measurable. Since telephone conversations are a perception point for all organizations, let’s consider some examples of phone standards:
Answer the phone by the second or third ring.
Always identify yourself by giving your name.
Never put the caller on hold without asking for permission—and waiting for a reply.
Never put a caller on hold for more than 30 seconds.
Never tell a customer what you can’t do without following with what you can do. (“I can’t have those papers to you by Wednesday, but I will deliver them to your business on Thursday morning.”)
Decide on the standards for each of your perception points. Double-check them to make sure they are measurable. You should be able to say objectively that someone did or did not meet a standard.
Make sure everyone in your organization understands and applies all of the standards
. Document them and include them with new employee orientation packages.
Constantly elevate your standards.
Take them to the next level. If you have created a standard that all outgoing voice-mail messages should be updated daily, consider changing that to twice daily. (“Hello, it’s Monday afternoon. I’ll be in a session from 2 o’clock until 3 o’clock and will be returning calls after that time.”)
Apply peer pressure.
If someone doesn’t meet the standards, it is a reflection on everyone in the organization. Don’t wait for a manager to crack down on someone who isn’t applying a standard. Ask the person if he or she needs help understanding the standard. If he or she understands the standard but isn’t applying it, the person likely has an attitude problem. Be direct in asking the person to apply the standard consistently.
Try to always keep a fresh perspective. When setting your standards, look at all of your approaches and systems as if you were seeing them for the first time. You’ll be shocked at what you look at every day but don’t see. And once you have your customer service practices in a state of excellence, you can always go home and fix that crack