Don’t risk losing customers and market share because of poor service. Culture and training are critical to developing the right attitude and it starts with HR.
By Dianne Durkin
Research has shown enterprises lose an estimated $83 billion each year due to defections and abandoned purchases as a direct result of poor customer service. Nearly two-thirds of consumers report ending a relationship due to poor customer service—61 per cent of the time they take their business to a competitor. This issue becomes even more complicated as customer interactions move beyond call centers. The reality is every single person in the organization needs to be conscious of good customer service. That’s where human resources comes in.
Companies can achieve enterprise-wide customer-centric culture with a combination of:
The critical part of business growth lies on creating customer satisfaction, loyalty and referrals, strengthening existing customer relationships and building strategic partnerships for the future. Providing the culture, and implementing a training program to compliment the culture, is critical. Each person in the organization must understand each customer interaction as an opportunity to communicate value.
“The critical part of business growth lies on creating customer satisfaction, loyalty and referrals, strengthening existing customer relationships and building strategic partnerships for the future.”
Respect is of utmost importance in the culture—and demonstrated by:
Integrity is another important aspect of the customer service culture. This means always doing what is right for the customer and the organization. In addition, it means doing what you say you are going to do—and never making false promises.
Teamwork is also an important component for a successful culture. Having a “not my job” attitude never results in good customer service. Good communications with your customers, being proactive and informing customers of situations they may encounter is critical to good service. Lastly, maintaining a consistency in fair and responsible customer service will build and sustain a strong culture geared for success.
Proven psychological techniques that build and strengthen customer interactions and foster strategic partnerships are a critical part of the training curriculum. This includes helping people understand individual styles and how those different individuals react under pressure. It also involves managing the verbal interactions with customers.
Individuals need to understand that building rapport with customers is extremely important. Rapport helps individuals feel safe, comfortable and understood and translates into feels of commonality, trust and respect. The training programs should provide specific rapport-building techniques that begin with tone of voice and the intonations, not necessarily the words, used.
These training programs need to also provide strategies on listening skills. Although we all know that listening is especially important in building customer relationships, the average listening efficiency is 25 per cent. What’s more, 70 per cent of all communications are misinterpreted.
“What’s more, 70 per cent of all communications are misinterpreted.”
To truly listen, individuals need to transcend their own value systems, history and judging tendencies and get deeply into the frame of reference or viewpoint of the other person. This is called empathetic listening. Helping individuals understand the psychological filters that impact our listening capabilities and how to utilize the empathetic listening approach is critical in the customer service environment. This involves effectively accepting the positive intent of the other person thereby establishing a stronger connection.
Questioning strategies are another important piece of the training curriculum. To effectively manage a customer situation, individuals need to ask a number of questions. The methodology in which the questions are asked must be strategic to prevent customers feeling interrogated. They would rather hold a conversation that is mutually beneficial to both parties. Helping individuals develop a questioning strategy that builds rapport maximizes customer loyalty.
A combination of culture and training will provide the professionalism that will build great customer interactions. Respecting individuals for their personal needs, changing business needs, creating positive interactions, anticipating customer needs, and always acting with respect, honesty and integrity will position an organization for competitive advantage.
Dianne Durkin is the president and founder of The Loyalty Factor, a training and consulting firm that educates executives, managers and lower-level employees in building customer and brand loyalty.
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