A Customer Service Philosphy Can Empower Your Team

John Krautzel
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Dissatisfaction with customer service is a recurring experience for most consumers, who often feel frustrated by inconsistent and indifferent responses from support staff. Customer service representatives can only excel at resolving problems when the company has a clear, unified philosophy based on the expectations of the target clients. By building the entire company culture around strong service goals, businesses can empower support teams to deliver successful solutions that keep customers engaged.

While service representatives speak for one company, employees make individual decisions when interacting with customers. In a 2015 survey, Consumer Reports ranked the most upsetting characteristics of poor customer service. Roughly 75 percent of respondents were "highly annoyed" by rude, condescending staff, 70 percent by representatives who were unhelpful or incorrect, and 64 percent by staff who ignored their issues. Employees take cues from upper management, so their methods of handling customer complaints may widely vary when the company doesn't have clearly defined values or service policies.

Businesses with a strong customer service philosophy provide a blueprint for behavior and decision making, helping employees take logical steps to solve problems even when facing complaints they haven't encountered before. As a result, businesses should use a top-down approach to unify the service experience and communicate their goals through every aspect of the company culture.

The consumer base determines the most effective service strategies, making it essential for businesses to ask customers which support options are most valuable to them. For example, customers are increasingly using social media to make complaints, and support teams that avoid public interactions appear dishonest or uninterested. Self-service channels, such as FAQ tutorials and automated account management, are attractive to tech-savvy customers who value the speed and convenience of handling minor issues on their own. Yet, many companies fail to update their websites to enable self-service options that would free up customer service staff to address more complex problems.

When customers seek help by phone, email or live chat, they want companies to provide consistent communication and manage the problem in as few steps as possible. To put it simply, customers don't want to be shuffled around and forced to repeat the problem over and over again, and these lengthy, unconstructive interactions motivate customers to share their negative experiences with other people.

Transparency and respect are crucial for improving customer relations. In the Consumer Reports survey, 68 percent of participants were frustrated by companies that make service phone numbers difficult to find, while 75 percent resented being unable to speak to a live person at all. Externally, transparency means providing multiple ways to contact the company in prominent locations on business websites and products. Internally, businesses should encourage teamwork by giving service representatives the tools to collaborate without directing customers to different employees and by establishing a clear, accessible chain of command when representatives need clearance from higher authorities.

Customer service staff are better equipped to solve problems if they are trained to handle both the technical and emotional aspects of customer interaction. Often, customers understand that a satisfying solution isn't always possible, but they still expect empathy and kindness from service representatives. To develop an effective philosophy, find out what consumers want, and give customer service teams the education, resources and internal support they need to live up to the company's brand promise.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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