I had an interesting discussion / exchange of tweets today around the subject of customer service with @audaciousgloop and @Gripnostril twitter certainly is starting to become more of a conversation hub for me than a unidirectional notification/microblog and this exchange was one which really got me thinking.
Twitter Transcript: (as best as I could put it all back together)
Gripnostril: @audaciousgloop Is it what, or who ? for some reason when we design customer service, we forget to think how we’d like it as well
audaciousgloop: @Gripnostril can you elaborate?
Gripnostril: @audaciousgloop Persoanlly I find “they” try to design for “the average”…so missing the “people”… I’m never me/seen “Mr/Mrs Average”
nz_rob: @Gripnostril is this a lamentation at the lack of flexibility and/or empowerment that *designed* systems tend to generate? @audaciousgloop
Gripnostril: @audaciousgloop if at home, or in store, as a customer, would “you” put up with it. Most people who do this, when asked IME, say “nope” WTF
audaciousgloop: @Gripnostril IME = In My Estimation?
nz_rob: @audaciousgloop I think it’s seperation from the customer. I’ve found in smaller organizations and groups it’s EASIER to care…
nz_rob: @audaciousgloop …Perception of safety (anonymity?) in numbers perhaps…
audaciousgloop: @nz_rob @Gripnostril or is it simply that the systems are under-designed? Or poorly designed?
nz_rob: @audaciousgloop I think they are, if anything, overdesigned. The lack of flex disallows different use cases and expects 1 size fits all
nz_rob: @audaciousgloop empowering (and TRUSTING) staff to make the right decision to resolve a specific situation requires lots of staff training
nz_rob: @audaciousgloop Providing rigid and inflexible rules does wonders for consistent service so the answer is the same each time, but quality..?
audaciousgloop: @nz_rob was just about to tweet about training. It’s been covered in the textbooks since the 80s but who’s doing it?
audaciousgloop: @nz_rob doing it well, that is? 🙂
nz_rob: @audaciousgloop unfortunatly I can’t tell you. I think it’s a hard field as lesson plans *should* update to keep pace with environment..but..
nz_rob: @audaciousgloop ..environments and businesses are changing so swiftly, it’s hard to keep reworking content and *still* turn a profit.
audaciousgloop: @nz_rob the perennial problem. But I think there’s a lot of value in at least knowing that that’s the issue.
So, for me, what came out of this discussion (and I’d certainly like to have the perception validated or challenged) was that companies who understand what good customer service is, tend to be smaller, more flexible and invest in training their staff to be knowledgeable about their subject areas so they can ‘talk off script’ to suit an individual situation.
Training for Customer Service
A long(ish) time ago, there was an organisation called Kiwihost who wanted to teach companies involved in the tourism sector how to treat their visitors/customer – what happened to these guys, have they grown with the times, has anyone used them recently?
What kind of training is required for the coalface? Is it as ‘simple’ as putting a ‘if it were me (my mum/friend/sister), how would I (they) want to be treated?’ . It seems, on the face of it at least, a good starting point as to how good service should be dispensed.
Encouraging Good Customer Service
Having worked in sever retail roles in very different capacities, I understand how hard it can be to nail your lips to your gums in the oh-so-permanent ‘have a nice day’ kind of smile as you repeat an answer you’ve already dispensed a hundred times before to yet another person who is seeking your help/attention. I also know how great it can be when you receive some extra special service from someone – so what can we do to encourage this?
This year, I’ve been making an effort to email companies where I’ve had great experiences, thanking the staff member (personally where possible) for their service, and telling them how much it meant to me. Sometimes this has included a back story as often their service has turned my day around and I feel it’s nice for them to see how far reaching their additional effort has been toÂ customer.
I have also seen attempts to provide great service fall flat – and that really makes me sad. As an exercise, spend a few minutes extra at your local supermarket checkouts, you’ll invariably find at least one operator there trying to put on a cheery face and chat to their customers as they pass through. Watch how the customers react, some won’t take any notice what-so-ever, others will grudgingly acknowledge the chat, while only a few will engage with the operator and chat in a real, person to person kind of way.
Once you’ve identified that operator, take the time to go through their checkout and engage with them, ask how they are, show an interest and thank them at the end of the conversation – believe me, it’ll make them feel their efforts are worthwhile and may even drive change in to their collegues, and the other custoemrs who observe your interaction.