While waiting in line – a long line I might add – at the local supermarket, I noticed that the cashier was attempting to remain pleasant with the customers. She was handling both checking and bagging duties. By the third customer the smile was starting to fade. Upon reaching the checker with my groceries, the smile was gone. The normal greeting of “Find everything ok sir” or “How are you today sir” was not extended. I asked if she was okay. She appeared puzzled by the question. I asked, what is the one thing that she could use right now to which she immediately replied “Some help!” I bagged groceries as she checked to cut down on the transaction time. During this process, I asked if she received any customer service training. She replied “Yes, we are trained to be courteous, upbeat and to always smile”.
“Smile training” alone is not enough in the customer service arena. One can be trained to be courteous, utilize active listening, paraphrase for clarity and focus on solutions and still be less effective with the customer if working within a system that is not conducive for successful customer interactions. In the story above, assistance from a bagger would have created a more positive experience for the cashier and the customer. The utilization of time data to create customer traffic models would allow management to anticipate peak periods and provide proper staffing of checkout registers. It’s the creation of a good system that leads to positive employee morale (which leads to higher employee retention), increased customer satisfaction (which leads to higher customer retention) and higher profitably.
“Smile training” is but one component of customer service delivery. The systemic viewpoint of customer service takes into consideration the functionality of the whole business operation. Are the business processes as efficient as possible? Were the processes built with the input of those who are actually performing the processes? Is there agreement in determining how service delivery is measured? While an operations analyst for a major newspaper, I was monitoring a conversation between a call center associate and a customer regarding a marketing campaign. It appeared that the customer knew more about the campaign than the associate! The associate was heard asking the customer to “read the information that you have to me please”. After the call was completed, I asked if she was aware of the marketing campaign, to which she replied “No”. I quickly surveyed other associates with the same question and received the same answer.
The marketing department was my next stop where the question posed was “Does the call center get the information regarding your various marketing campaigns?” The marketing department associate meekly replied “No”. Although the call center associate remained nice while handling a tough situation, the experience was not a smooth or pleasant one for her or the customer. In addition, the call length was extended unnecessarily, which adds to the time calls wait in queue, which can lead to a higher rate of abandoned calls. The associate’s productivity is negatively impacted which can lead to negative performance evaluations, which can lead to negative employee morale as the associate feels he/she has no control over the situation. The inclusion of the call center in marketing campaigns erased the type of interaction mentioned above. A systemic culture prompts one to think about who/what is impacted by one’s actions. This slight pause allows for the creation of a better process.
A systemic mindset is required for a complete customer service experience. Employees are more effective and happier when working within a system that supports their efforts to provide a good customer service experience. “Smile training” is an important cog in the customer service wheel, but should not be solely relied upon for great customer service delivery and positive employee morale. Create a “systems” oriented company to insure the delivery of great customer service!