7 Ways To Fix Customer Service

Call in to a customer service center for any retailer, or any business for that matter. On a scale of 1 to 10, what level of service do you receive? I know of very few who would get my 10 rating. Most would be a dismal 3 or 4. Not enough to make me want to keep doing business with them.

You probably aren’t surprised that custom service complaints are on the rise. In fact, here are three, 2013 statistics from my Customer Service Crisis post that should frighten you if you have customers:

  • 71% of consumers left a business relationship where a Call Agent played the largest part in a bad experience.
  • 85% of consumers will retaliate against poor customer service through lost business, social media and word of mouth.
  • 80% say their business could have been kept if customer service expectations were met–and they’ll share positive experiences as well.

So what’s the secret to great customer service?

In a word: culture. Most customer service agents are not direct employees of the company you’re doing business with and they don’t get paid much. But those two issues aren’t nearly as important as the expectations placed on new customer service hires. Sadly, most are hired with the expectation of being replaced for poor performance. Nowhere in the service experience is this more apparent than when you hear an agent stick religiously to a “script” because the common wisdom is anyone can read the script (and therefor are easily replaced).

Put yourself in that agent’s shoes for just a moment. When you realize that you’re not expected to be too smart, will eventually fail, and can easily be replaced, how far down does your morale sink? How do you perform? Yeah, me too! In fact, a 3-year study by the Harvard Business School, which surveyed over 1.2 million employees from mostly Fortune 1000 companies found that:

“In about 85% of companies employees’ more sharply declines after their fist 6 months–and continues to deteriorate for years afterward.”

Make no mistake, these kinds of results are a direct result of toxic culture — and the leadership team is directly responsible for that culture. Here are seven changes that can begin to turn bad service — and bad customer experiences — around:

  1. Change the hiring profile to build a team that “loves to learn”. These people enjoy problem solving, growing and being capable.
  2. Expect the best of each employee; recognize and reward the behaviors you want to reinforce. People generally work up-to or down-to the expectations that are set.
  3. Establish and measure meaningful, coachable skills. Do away with antiquated measurements like AHT (average handle time).
  4. Get agents off scripts and give them everything they need to be successful problem solvers. Employ their brains, not just their butts in the seats.
  5. Teach them how to build relationships. Most customers want to be valued and helped in a personalized and friendly way. That’s not so hard!
  6. Feedback is the breakfast of champions. Coach every employee to become more valuable and productive, in a positive, supportive way.
  7. In the biggest culture shift of all: put employees first — customers second. If that doesn’t make sense, ask yourself how many disgruntled, half-hearted employees does it take to lose a customer? Your customer satisfaction scores are a direct reflection of your employeesatisfaction scores.

Culture is a mindset, but more than that, it’s behaviors. Behaviors speak the truth. Changes in culture can come hard, but fearless commitment pays off. Start with your frontline workers. Don’t like their performance? Look upstream for the root causes in leadership behaviors and culture — it’s likely you’re getting just what you ask for.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.