Guy Letts

Member Article

Have You Got Your Team Behind You?

Guy Letts is the former head of customer services at software giant Sage and is the founder of www.customersure.com, simple web-based software that gathers feedback from customers, makes sure every item is actioned promptly and helps everyone in the company learn from what customers say about their experience.

Whether you’re an SME, a call centre operator or a large blue chip company, the importance of having your whole company behind you is increasingly recognised as key in delivering customer service and customer satisfaction to today’s ‘monster customer’ – a customer who has choices, lacks brand loyalty and has direct access to hugely powerful communication channels on which to make their opinions known if your organisation fails to perform for them.

Saying you want to create a customer focussed workforce is one thing but actually achieving it is another thing all together – I’ve seen many businesses invest hundreds of thousands of pounds in improving customer service departments only to find that other areas of the business fall short of their promise, leading to a real lack of customer satisfaction despite all their efforts and investment.

Ring any bells?

So short of a magic wand, how do you create a customer focussed workforce who share in the belief that customer satisfaction leads to both their own personal satisfaction and tangible business growth?

Let’s start with you – do you really believe this is the case? Many business leaders say they are customer focussed, but in reality their words are empty and staff are the first to notice when words and actions are out of sync. For a business to be really customer focused the efforts must start at the top with the people who come in to contact with customers less frequently, but whose policies, attitudes, behaviours and decisions are extremely influential on the customer’s experience. Making business decisions based on the needs of the customer and ensuring that the customers’ needs are well understood is essential.

So you would love to put your customer first but the relentless pressure for profit means you must sometimes compromise. Really? Customers are the very people who create long term profits for a business; looked after correctly their loyalty to your brand will grow and they will recommend you to others – they are either the best or the worst business development team you can hire, depending on how you treat them.

Too many businesses take a short term view of profitability, (often driven by their investors) and the resulting erosion of customer loyalty means that longer term growth and prosperity is undermined. Studies clearly show that businesses who take this short term approach will see customer satisfaction fall but companies that focus on customer service, think John Lewis, First Direct, will see their business grow.

I often wish that we could find a different name for our customer service departments. Having a dedicated customer service department somehow says that customer satisfaction is only the responsibility of those working in that department and not that of the rest of the business.

Sometimes the most unlikely members of staff can have a positive or negative impact on customer satisfaction levels.

From the friendly driver delivering your goods to your overstretched HR manager who fails to respond to eager job seekers- they both represent your business and deal with potential customers or at the very least people who influence potential customers, be it directly or through the social media platforms available to them.

And we must never forget that staff satisfaction is a pre-requisite for customer satisfaction. Dissatisfied members of the team will find it all but impossible to deliver exceptional customer service. I know that the vast majority of call centres recruit to the highest standards and that staff in the main want to do a great job for customers. Whilst every business needs guidelines and policies, your staff need to know that they have a degree of autonomy when it comes to serving the customer and have the systems to allow them to deal with every possible type of request. There also needs to be a culture that will reward them for using initiative rather than reprimand them for not sticking to the script. We’re all customers ourselves and we know from our own experience what frustrates us and what delights us when we have to contact a company for help. Aligning an organisation to deliver consistently good service is no small challenge, but as leaders the solution lies in our hands through the example we set personally, the culture we engender and the commercial policies we set.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Guy Letts .

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