The other day, a good friend of mine called on me at my office. During the customary small talk, he shared with me a not so great experience that he had at one of our branches. Pushing the liberties that he enjoyed with me to the very extreme, he spat out-“Ibrahim, your customer service %&^%&”. Though I immediately got into the offensive and started a hugely unconvincing lecture on the topic “100 reasons why we are better than the rest of the world”, his comment pushed me into a reflective Self introspective mood later on. Even with all those Trainings, Incentive programs and Morale boosting events, why were we unsuccessful in getting our customer facing staff to behave professionally?
Being a huge fan and an ardent user of LinkedIn, I posted my predicament on a couple of busy forums and voila!!!! A plethora of simple, easy to implement, yet effective suggestions started pouring in. And as I delved into each of them, I realized that with a little bit of creative thinking, they can be implemented in every area where one is facing gaps in performance. From improving the behavior of children, spouses, colleagues, Bosses and your own esteemed self. With a million thanks to all those wise online friends who cared to share, let me reproduce their ideas here.
Inspire their hearts- Give them the big picture. Create a Vision statement that paints a motivating mental picture of their department getting the award from the CEO for the best department in the organization. Fill the Vision statements with adjectives that they want to hear about themselves. Make them see this statement every day.
Make expectations crystal clear every day– Have pre shift and post shift meetings. People have really short memories
Give Feedback and constructive criticism assertively
Ensure availability of guidelines, support and resources- Help them do the job better
Prepare behavior standards like “I will always greet the customer before the customer greets me” and make staff evaluate each other.
Speak to the staff, understand their issues and get their suggestions
Make them aware that they are constantly watched… through mystery shoppers and similar approaches
Get them together regularly and let them reflect and come out with creative ways to improve service
Change Roles– Get them to experience the service that they provide. Let them feel the pain
Use Pleasure and Pain– Measure performance regularly and align it with incentive and punitive measures
Get them to brainstorm and come out with 7 Customer Service values, like “Make the customer feel respected”. Give them ways to live each of these values. Share with them real case studies (which involve them) about each of these values. Make story- telling and appreciation a regular feature of every team briefing.
Use Positive change agents to observe and coach associates
Encourage staff to go out and about, into other branches and retail outlets to observe customer service
Coach the Leaders who coach and manage the front line staff
Make sure that every department supports the front liners in the best possible ways through approaches like Service level Agreements
Put together a video recording of a few customers who speak about what has delighted them and what has pained them in their interactions with the organization, and show it to staff members
Arrange monthly ‘Welcome to Work days’ where employees were given a warm welcome, a cup of coffee & pastry (by a different dept every month) on arrival at the staff entrance similar to the welcome that a hotel guest would receive
Facilitate Customer Service incentives – bingo cards with various customer (or sales) orientated tasks….the teams worked out the prizes themselves i.e. the winner gets coffee made for them for a week or gets to choose his/her quota for a week
Wall of Fame – photos and achievements to be posted on a wall in the staff room
Have a “Get to Know You Day“? Everyone spends sometime getting to know a little more about each other
Implement an awards program recognizing both individual and team performance regarding customer service
Treat your staff the way you want them to treat your customers
Allow each branch to share the best practices that they have implemented to improve service
Interview staff that have consistently fared well and share their ways of thinking and feeling with all staff
I am sure that this list will help you a lot. Please feel free to share your own thoughts. Once again, let me express my gratitude to all my online friends who helped me to put this list together.