My second guest blog is written by John Jarrett. John has 20 years’ experience in management training, consultancy and interim management specialising in all areas of management and leadership, customer relationship management, stakeholder engagement, personal and business development.
He has a proven track record in the development of training programmes including needs analysis, course design, delivery, ‘one-on-one’ coaching and reinforcement activities.
I have long felt that people who work in customer service jobs are looked down on in British society.
They are often the least paid, least trained and least valued members of a company’s workforce despite what the company may say. I guess when I look at things from an economic viewpoint being at the lower end of the pay scale is to be expected but the least valued and the least trained is not acceptable.
Sit in your local fast food joint and it won’t take long until you experience what I mean. Listen to the way some customers speak to staff and also keep your ears and eyes open to how some of their managers may do and say. I think a lot of people would think that certain customer facing jobs are for people that don’t have proper jobs – whatever those jobs are.
Most of us would agree that doctors, nurses, solicitors and teachers are professional people, heroes in fact. In other words they train for many years to master their jobs, rarely work to set hours and are dedicated to the people they serve.
Blowing off the dust from my printed format Concise Oxford Dictionary I look up professional and it states that a ‘profession’ is a ‘vocation or calling, - one that involves some branch of advanced learning or science’. It also says that ‘professionalism’ is ‘ (the) qualities or typical features of a profession’.
Perhaps customer service is not advanced learning or a science but I have always wondered why some people seem to be born naturals at customer service and why others seem to really struggle.
After working with thousands of companies I have tried to understand what the difference is between what I call on one hand - customer service ‘heroes’ - and on the other hand - customer service ‘victims’.
Customer Service Victims
These people drift into service jobs without really appreciating what is expected of them. They often resent their customers and complain constantly about their job, their company and how stressed they feel.
Their employers will often let them down by giving them little training and support. Often when the company does run any customer service training then the victim will often react in a negative and cynical way. The training may include a certain level of ownership but you can’t suddenly tell people, “you are empowered” and expect them to change their basic behaviour overnight.
Customer Service Heroes
Customer service heroes are the staff who employers should hunt down and employ. They know exactly what is expected of them and how difficult their job can be. They are winners and get a ‘buzz’ from a challenging customer. Service heroes take responsibility and ownership while service victims make excuses as to why things cannot change – and of course with that attitude they rarely do!
Service heroes are professionals at what they do for the following reasons:
They are dedicated to serving their customers (and colleagues)
They are always on-duty. They see their job as a ‘profession’ rather than a ‘9 to 5’ job
They spend years learning and developing their skills (mastery)
They are always looking for new ways to ‘delight’ their customers
They are positive and realise that their job is not easy but challenging
They get a ‘buzz’ from winning over a difficult customer
The 10 Habits of Customer Service Heroes
They spend time finding out what their customers really want and expect from them (head / tangible and heart / emotional). Where possible, they get to know their customers personally identifying their individual likes and dislikes.
They understand, and accept that people are complex animals and never assume that any two people think the same. They accept the differences in others and see a ‘different’ customer as a challenge.
They are pro-active rather than reactive. They are always one step ahead of their customers’ thinking keeping them informed of unexpected problems and delays. They are always on the outlook for new ways to improve their service.
They not only listen to their customers and make improvements to their service accordingly, but they also innovate. They observe what their competitors and companies in other industries do and adapt their good ideas accordingly.
They pay attention to detail, and appreciate that the difference between a good service and a ‘world class’ service could be a series of small but important actions (Moments of Truth – Jan Carlzon).
They develop unique aspects of their service to differentiate them from the competition, or the threat of the introduction of competition.
They get their suppliers (internal and external) into line. They acknowledge that if they receive poor service from their suppliers, co-workers or management, the service they deliver will always suffer.
They accept that from time to time they will have to take some ‘verbal flak’ from customers. Their initial reaction is to stay calm and listen rather than get defensive or take things personally. However, they are not expected to take continued verbal abuse or physical threats.
When dealing with difficult customer situations they know it is important to fix the customer (heart / emotional expectations) before fixing the problem (head / tangible expectations). When recovering from a breakdown in service they either ‘fix the problem or fix the mess the problem has caused’.
Most customer complaints in connection with broken promises can be put down to poor communication. When making commitments or agreeing deadlines with customers, good Customer Service professionals are clear and specific, leaving little room for misunderstanding.
Follow John on Twitter @JohnJarrettJJ and on LinkedIn at https://uk.linkedin.com/in/john-jarrett-367550b.