Protocols and procedures are put into place within a workplace setting to ensure consistency, accuracy and that the right measures are being taken to complete a task. Within the customer service industry, protocols and procedures are essential to our everyday work to ensure that we are serving our clients to the best of our abilities. Over time, however, protocols may become ‘the way we have always done it’, instead of the best measure that we should be using to fulfill the needs of our customers.
By taking a look at common protocols in the customer service industry, we can identify common protocols that can double as poor customer service and how to avoid them in the future.
‘Shuffling of customers’ is a common protocol within the customer service industry that is often used to provide a customer with the right answers from the right person. The customer service representative at the front desk may not have all of the answers, so when they come across the person that knows more than they do, or who can help them with their particular request, they shuffle them along. In hindsight this is not looked down upon within the industry- the representative is doing their best to service their client by getting them in touch with who can best service them.
Consider what a customer may be thinking when ‘shuffling’ happens to them. First, the customer is the one who is waiting on the staff, when they should not be the one kept waiting. Of course, complex situations can occur, and if this does happen always follow up with a customer later on, however if it is an issue that can be solved fairly quickly, introducing the customer to a staff member who is brand new to the situation is not ideal.
What should happen:
To prevent this issue for the benefit of the customer, train, train and train employees! Get creative and don’t be afraid to use role playing for common customer to customer service staff situations. This will ensure employees at the front-of-house know what to expect while on the clock, and will avoid surprises. This is better for the customer because they will then have seamless service, and employees will get the opportunity to service customers in a more rewarding way, by having more responsibility and accountability for their actions. By training above and beyond all staff, they will feel more comfortable answering a variety of questions and overall staff will look very knowledgable, which will show when they are interacting with customers that they are confident!
No one likes a broken promise. Often times within the hospitality industry when things go wrong we make promises to customers, based on our good intentions on what ‘will happen now’ as an exception to ensure they still have a positive experience within our hands. However, by over promising and under delivering, we fail to meet the needs of our customers even more. Adopt the philosophy within your business that staff members will always live up to the promises made. This will ensure that customers are being satisfied even when a situation goes as unexpected. By admitting mistakes to customers, staying honest, and actually doing your very best to make amends to a situation gone wrong, you will actually win over customers, for your hard work and efforts, instead of pushing them away for over promising.
Why this works:
Customers won’t remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel. Either way- if you fail to satisfy them by breaking a promise or you follow through on your word, you leave them with a lasting impression. Make this impression one to remember of a positive note and you will be sure to develop loyal customers along the way, rather than upset ones that will surely not return.
Following up with customers to resolve a previous problem is highly important to sustain respect from them when a problem was not able to be solved on the spot. However follow ups only work when the customer service team is polite and genuine and remembers the customers. Failing to get back to customers in an efficient manner is like telling them that their business is not important to you, and your business lacks integrity. In order to avoid this, provide personalized follow-ups that involve the staff members involved within the customer- client relation. Customers want to know that you as a business are people orientated, so skip the phone machine surveys, email satisfaction surveys and provide your customers a real call, with a real person.
Importance of Attitude
In line with previous discussions, we have discussed the importance of customer service, through hiring the right people with the right attitude and teaching the essential skills later. This ensures that employees who are hired come equipped with a ‘customer’s first attitude’, ensuring good first impressions of staff and interactions between staff members and customers are positive. Of course in any given situation something may go wrong requiring a staff member to get a supervisor to resolve a situation that went sour if a customer is requesting a manager to be involved. However, even if the staff is doing their best to service all customers, some customers are just not happy. What happens then? The best solution is to put in place a proper procedure that describes what the customer service team should do when someone is unhappy.
This again relates to highly training staff, how to remain calm and keep customers calm, as well as turning the dissatisfied into satisfied. Having a procedure for all staff to be aware of on customer service protocols and when to call for a manager will ensure that staff remain accountable for their actions by knowing how to deal with a variety of customer situations, this will then ensure that more customers are happy!
Customer service is a skill and a business staple that we rely on to make our businesses what we know them as today. It is important that the procedures we use and live by every day make sense for us as a team, and make sense for the customers that they affect. By rethinking common customer service procedures and protocols you can change the way you do business – our customers are the most important people to us and have the power to do business elsewhere, but if we provide the best service we have the opportunity to increase returning customers, word of mouth referrals and loyalty.
If you have any questions about how you can impact your customer service reach, we are here to help, and when in doubt to get a true sense of how your customer service experience is ranking, invest in a guest experience audit by inviting a secret shopper into your establishment to learn exactly which aspects of your service need to be addressed.