By Victoria Kenward
Over the years, I've heard a ton of reasons why staffing and recruiting firms don't design and implement formal customer service training:
· We don't need it. We only hire sales and service staff who are friendly, respectful and solutions-focused.
· We don't have a budget for it.
· We don't have the time for it.
I get it, believe me.
But honestly, these are not good excuses. When you consider the cost of poor customer service – missed opportunities, disgruntled clients (and the negative word-of-mouth they spread), lost revenue –you begin to appreciate just how critical exceptional customer service is to profitability.
Truly excellent customer service is all about consistency – no matter what kind of challenges you face. And the only way to ensure that consistency is by creating formal policies and making formal CS training mandatory. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Keep customers at the heart of your processes. Walk through the customer experience with your staff and detail the steps in your service process – from the moment a client becomes aware of your company through final invoice. Think like a customer and identify touch points, typical service issues and opportunities for creating the "wow" factor (i.e., delivering shareworthy service).
Create formal policies. For each opportunity and issue you identify, standardize and document how you'd like your staff to handle them. Create policies that empower your staff to deliver shareworthy service on the spot. And don't just think reactively (i.e., what to do if something goes wrong) – design processes that actually prevent problems from happening.
Develop a handbook. Organize your policies into a manual that covers, at a minimum:
· Overall customer relations goals and standards
· Guidelines for greeting and talking to customers
· How to answer common service questions (and how to handle the not-so-common ones)
· How to answer questions about your staffing or recruiting service
· How to handle customer complaints
· When and how to escalate service issues
· How to inform customers about changes to your company, facility or services
· How to sell and upsell
· How to help customers with special needs or disabilities
· How to gather customer feedback and evaluate that feedback
Conduct formal customer service training. Using your handbook as a guide, train your employees on each of your policies. If you can't dedicate an entire afternoon to training as a group, break down the training into smaller modules. During training sessions, role-play common service opportunities and issues. Brainstorm ways to deliver shareworthy service in every customer interaction. Perhaps most importantly, remind staff exactly why exceptional customer service is so important.
Hold periodic refresher courses. Customer service training should be ongoing. As your company evolves and you hire new staff, pick out pieces of your program to use as refresher training. Review customer feedback forms; examine existing processes to see how you could improve them; look for new ways to make service training more fun and engaging.
Like most things in life, you'll get out of your customer service efforts what you invest in them. By formalizing your customer service processes and training, you'll have smarter employees, happier customers and a healthier bottom line.