We’ve all been there… you call customer support at your cable company or phone service
provider and instead of getting help for your problem, you get transferred to four different people in different departments who are all more interested in selling you something than fixing your concern. You stand in line for forty five minutes only to get your food or drink order mixed up with someone else’s. The airline employee is flat out rude to you and you end up having to rent a car to get where you’re trying to go.
If you’re like my husband, you would write a letter to the company to let them know about the terrible experience you’ve had. He’s done this several times and received coupons, discounts and apologies from multiple companies. However, he’s more the exception than the rule. Most customers “talk with their wallets” and simply choose a different product or service the next time, and the company who delivered the poor service never knows why they lost the business. Have you ever experienced abysmal customer service and done nothing about it? All of us have - and, the truth is that it isn’t our job as customers to let the company know that we’re not happy with the service we receive. If your customers do take the time to answer a survey or file a complaint, they are giving you a gift. Their feedback is an opportunity for you to improve. However, we can’t count on customer feedback to know when we have a customer service problem.
If it isn’t the customer’s job to report poor service, whose job is it? Most customer service sins aren’t committed in isolation - most of the time, there are witnesses. Most of the time, other employees see or hear customer service failures when they happen.
According to research by VitalSmarts, "each employee who witnesses bad customer service and fails to speak up costs the company $54,511 per year. And in most organizations, only 7% of employees can be counted on to speak up — despite the fact that 66% of them say they are capable of helping solve the customer’s problem.”
Yikes! The numbers are scary, but think about it. Have you ever witnessed a peer choose policy over the customer’s needs? Have you seen someone refuse to be inconvenienced to go that little extra mile to make the customer happy? Have you gone along with processes or procedures that you know irritate your customers without saying anything to the leadership that created those systems? It can be very difficult to hold a peer accountable to delivering great customer service, and even more challenging to do with a manager or leader in your organization. It’s no wonder that most of your employees have witnessed multiple customer service infractions without saying a word.
This silence not only impacts the individual customer relationships that are damaged by poor service, it also serves to create a cultural norm of poor service. If everyone sees these infractions occurring and nobody says anything, poor service just becomes more ingrained in how things are done in your organization.
How can you stop the spread of poor service? VitalSmarts offers some tips on how to have a crucial conversation with a peer or even a manager when you witness poor customer service. But, before your employees can use those skills, you have to create an environment where this kind of conversation can happen safely; you need to build a culture that encourages accountability.
If customer service is truly important to you, create a time and space for these difficult conversations to happen. Use the “Client/Employee Feedback” time during your weekly adjustment meeting to share feedback with each other on your interactions with customers. As a leader, it is key to publicly express gratitude for feedback that you receive on how you interact with customers. The team has to know that not only is it okay to bring it up when someone makes a mistake with a customer, it is appreciated and rewarded. After all, that is the only way to improve and retain the customers that you love!
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