Where are your customer service skills? How do you improve them?

What do you do to nurture customer service talent?

This week is Customer Service Week run by the Institute of Customer Service. Today is the second day and the theme is Capability & Skills: Identifying and nurturing customer service skills in your organisation.

Ask your employees how to improve customer service

Have you ever asked employees what would make things better for them and ultimately improve the customer journey? Perhaps they may suggest changes in how you correspond with customers? Or changes to customer service targets that may make a difference? They could be focussing on getting a resolution within a certain time but actually want to focus on getting the right resolution, which is likely in turn to reduce further complaints. Your employees may suggest some training that you hadn’t thought about, such as in psychology or consumer rights or in how to identify and respond to vulnerable customers.

5 people sitting along a table

Customers with celebrity status

Think of a celebrity (dead or alive). Imagine that a member of staff is that celebrity and see if your manner changes and if so how. Try this with your staff as part of a role play exercise. Then have a discussion around what was different to how you normally handle complaints. Why? Should everyone be treated like a celebrity?

Don’t treat everyone like you would be treated

Perhaps you believe that everyone should be treated how you would like to be treated or like your mother should be treated. Although commonly spouted, these adages are poor. I want to be treated with respect, like most people. Yes. However, I also want to be dealt with in writing and swiftly. My mother would be quite happy with you phoning her and chatting about anything and everything. You may like to be dealt with on the phone but swiftly. If you took every area of dealing with complaints, imagine just how many permutations there would be in how you would deal with someone. Take a celebrity… you don’t know how they would like to be dealt with. You have to find out and that’s the key. Train staff to find out these things as if they were talking to someone whom they wanted to think highly of them.

Thank yourself

Ask your staff to write a “Thank you” letter to themselves. They could take a recent real scenario or one that is made up. This could be, for example, a letter that tells them what they would like to hear, such as “Thank you for being empathetic”, “Thank you for listening”, “Thank you for dealing with the matter so effectively and efficiently”, and so on. What was done to make the handling of the complaint so good? There is the aspiration. Give a prize to the first member of staff to get a “Thank you” letter/email…

It is even possible to receive a “Thank you” when the complaint handler has not given the complainant what they want. I have been working with a banking client on improving correspondence with vulnerable customers. In some of the work that we are undertaking we are working with staff to remove standard paragraphs, use more initiative and imagining the effects that the decision could have on the customer. The process is ongoing but within months someone had a letter saying “thank you” for dealing with the matter and treating her as an individual.

More articles on Customer Service Week

Know your customer

How to celebrate and recognise your customer service heroes

Bringing customer service to the Boardroom

Build your brand through Trust, Ethics & Sustainability

If you would like to find out more about improving complaint handling see Services.