Bringing customer service to the Boardroom

It is the fourth day of Customer Service Week. Today the theme is Leadership: Championing customer service in the boardroom

people sitting round table with laptops

Customer service at Board level

How often is customer service discussed at Board level in your company from the point of view of the customer? Do you talk more in terms of “this is how we will do it”, “this is what it will mean for the company”?

Who’s in the chair?

Teddy bear

Try a new perspective. Have an empty chair. You could put a teddy bear in the chair. Name the teddy. Give him or her an age and decide about its family? Is there a partner? Is there a disability? What else do we need to know? When you have finished these types of questions have them written out with Teddy. With each agenda item ask Teddy what they think. You could discuss what Teddy may think and the impact that has on your decisions.  You could have a number of Teddies. A different Teddy to each meeting, or more than one. Each one will bring you a different and unique perspective on how your decisions will impact on the customer experience and how they see you.

Shop from a competitor

Have you ever sent someone to do business with a competitor or just another business in a “mystery shopping” exercise? Try it. Mentally log every part of the journey and write it up and try and purchase something similar in your company. What were the differences, what was better, what was worse and what could you discuss as possible changes to how things run in your company? Would Teddy prefer those changes?

Work shadow

Send colleagues in senior positions to shadow colleagues in customer-facing roles. When this happens they often report back some really basic things that they just didn’t realise. For example, when Dave Lewis started as CEO at Tesco he introduced Feet on the Floor. Staff from Head Office went out to the shop floor and learnt a great deal. Lewis recognised that he needed to find out what customers wanted. He needed to discover why customers had left Tesco and what would bring them back. This initiative was key in the turnaround of the supermarket’s fortunes. (See more of my work with Tesco and a consumer champion).

Floor to staff to the Board

Go one step further than Lewis. Bring staff up. Bring shop floor staff into the Boardroom. Ensure that you make them feel comfortable and tell them Teddy told you to bring them to the meeting! Because it is true. When I asked my followers on social media if they thought having staff at a Board meeting would be beneficial, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Staff know what is happening on the shop floor. They can support Teddy to say more too. Data has its place but so does real world recent experience. Ensure that you have systems in place for this that division is not caused.

More articles on Customer Service Week

Know your customer

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

How to celebrate and recognise your customer service heroes

Build your brand through Trust, Ethics & Sustainability

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

Three consumer pet hates and how to resolve them proactively

Customer service and complaint handling pet hates

Having been a consumer champion for a number of years, I have the ear of thousands of people who delight in telling me their pet hates with customer service and complaint handling.

Today I’m going to start a series of posts about these frustrations and how they should be addressed, to improve service and therefore customer loyalty, company reputation and sales.

row of shops

1) Staff who don’t pay attention to the right things at the right time!

When customers are being served by customer service assistants, they don’t want to be ignored. Acknowledging they are even there at the till is a good start! I hear many times that it really annoys people that assistants are talking to each other when serving them, in so many different stores, shows the problem is widespread.

Of course it goes both ways, as I know some customers are downright rude when they remain on their phones as they approach the tills. But for those who aren’t it is just simple courtesy to say “Hello” or “Thank you” or “Good bye”. Even for people, such as myself, who do NOT want to engage in conversation with assistants, I do not expect to be ignored. It’s just a matter of basic manners.

What can you do to ensure staff pay attention?

When you recruit, test each candidate’s manners! For example are they saying “Please” and “Thank you” when they are offered them a glass of water? Whether someone has manners is usually demonstrated, rather than by the answer to a question. All is not lost though, simple manners can be taught! Or, at the very least, they can be expected as part of a staff member’s employment. Make it a condition of work that staff are attentive (but see point 2 below!) so that they are not talking to colleagues when they are serving customers. Some quick role plays, videos on expectations, information on the company, and part of ongoing monitoring by management.

Consumers customer service pet hates 1

2) Pouncing staff!

This is one my particular pet hates! Staff who ask if they can help as soon as a customer is through the door. I don’t know anyone who likes this. Even my mother, who will happily chat to anyone, doesn’t want to be pounced on as on as she walks through the door. Most people are there to browse. In stores where this happens, it is clearly a company policy where someone has told staff to do this, with no understanding of how it makes customers feel.

What can you do to stop pouncing on customers?

Stop the practice! If you are expecting your staff to ask someone if they can help, as they come through the door, just stop it! Instead, please train your staff to hold back and ascertain whether it looks like the person is looking for help, or is standing still looking around for something. If they are talking to their friend whilst walking around the shop casting their eyes over clothes, leave them alone! A good sales assistant can read people’s body language, understanding when people want help and when they don’t. These people are a great asset to your company. Test for this skill at recruitment and empower your staff to make the appropriate decisions for themselves.

Consumers' customer service pet hates 2

3) Staff who don’t answer the question!

Many times I have asked a simple question to a company in an email and not received an answer. Companies often think that all they have to do is give a refund. When a customer asks a question it is usually because they want to know the answer! Often this is so that they can be sure that the problem will not recur, for themselves or for others.

What can you do to make sure staff are answering the questions?

Answer the question! If someone asks you what you are going to do to make sure something doesn’t happen again when they use your service, give them the answer. Don’t just say “This is not our usual standard and we can assure you that it will not happen again”. That is NOT an assurance! Telling them what you are putting into place to improve the situation is what customers are looking for. This kind of response means that the customer knows you have listened and have correctly carried out the necessary change for improvement.

Customer service frustration 3

If you are interested in working with Helen see Services for a variety of innovative customer-focussed solutions to your business needs. You can contact her with your own ideas too of course! Services.

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