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3 Ways To Frustrate Your Front Line

Front line personnel are tasked with providing a great customer experience – whether it be face-to face, via phone or web chat. An organization’s success at retaining customers is dependent upon the skills of those rendering service. Did you know that it’s important for your front line personnel to be relaxed and confident during their encounters with customers? Let’s take a look at three ways to frustrate your front line.

Unrealistic Expectations – One of the leading frustrations for front line personnel are unrealistic expectations. I have often witnessed organizations create goals based on a mathematical formula that doesn’t take into consideration what is actually required to perform job duties. Unless one actually first of all understands what’s required to complete a task, it’s almost impossible to assign an achievable goal to that task. Unless one remembers to apply the capacity vs demand theory, frustration is sure to follow. When front line personnel are responsible for multiple tasks, it’s critical to determine how much time is required to complete all tasks in order to establish reasonable expectations. The main complaint that I’ve heard over the years is “There’s only so much time in a workday! How am I supposed to get all of this done?” Unrealistic expectations lead to your front line making choices that may negatively impact the customer. Taking shortcuts, leaving tasks undone or exhibiting an “I don’t care anymore!” attitude are some clues that you may need to take a look at what’s expected of the front line personnel within your organization. Now I hear some of you saying “Employees should always be ready to service the customer.” Unless you have spent time in the front line person’s shoes as they attempt to meet unrealistic expectations, it’s probably a good idea not to let them hear you making that remark – it’s not conducive to creating good morale.

Dictating From On High – Another “frustration maker” is being the recipient of “orders from on high” which negatively impacts ones performance. It’s important for leaders to have a comprehensive perspective of their organization. Should one not possess the employee’s perspective of what is required to consistently create a great customer experience, decisions which create negative morale usually follow. I have often heard “They don’t really know what we do here!” or “Those people at corporate don’t have a clue.”

It’s important to get the perspective of the front line when making decisions that will ultimately impact their workday. When considering implementing changes, be sure to remember who and what will be impacted by the change. Take the time to get the opinions of those who will be responsible for tasks created by the proposed change. Should you choose not to take these steps, you’re surely opening the door of frustration. Remember for every action there is a reaction. Make sure that you create positive reactions.

Sub-Par Supervision – One of the leading reasons for front line personnel frustration is the front line supervisor. Does the supervisor possess the knowledge and people skills to lead the front line personnel? Does your organization provide comprehensive supervisor training? Will the front line supervisor go to bat for their team when it’s clear that proposed changes will negatively impact his/her team? Front line personnel look to their supervisors for guidance and support. While in the position of supervisor, my own personal motto was “My job is to make sure my team has what they need to do their job and then to get out of the way so that they can.” Make sure your supervisors understand that in order for them to be successful, their team must first be successful. Do your organization a favor by developing a supervisor training program to ensure that supervisors possess the skills required to fulfill their role as a leader. A supervisor that is totally numbers oriented in regards to performance will eventually create an air of resentment amongst front line personnel. In the supervisor role, it’s a plus to get the story behind the number. Are there issues beyond the front line personnel’s control that may negatively contribute to their overall performance? In my opinion, it’s the supervisor’s role to identify and remove obstacles that hinder their team’s performance. Be careful when selecting a front line supervisor. Front line personnel are depending on you to make the right decision.

The day-to-day performance of front line personnel is important to the customer’s experience. It’s critical to create a positive workplace environment. Do all you can to eliminate frustration by staying far away from Unrealistic Expectations, strive to not Dictate From On High and do not subject front line personnel to Sub Par Supervision.

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6 Characteristics of Great Customer Service

In order to be successful at any endeavor, one has to identify the essentials required to accomplish that feat. It’s the same in customer service. What essentials are required to create great customer experiences which lead to maximum customer retention? I’ll give you six characteristics that I feel are key ingredients.

Reliability – Customers expect product/service providers to be dependable and accurate during interactions. Take your home electricity – as long as you pay the bill you expect the lights to come on when you flip that switch. Do customers consider your organization to be reliable? Are you rated high for dependability? Can your customers trust that you will do what you say you will do? These are key factors to providing a great customer experience.

Competence – This characteristic measures knowledge and skill level in regards to one’s product/services. If you surveyed your customer, what would they say about the level of competency exhibited by those within your organization? Internet access allows today’s customer to gain knowledge about yours and your competitor’s organization. Once the interaction begins, will your customer know more about your products/services than front line personnel and others within your organization? Make sure that everyone within your organization is a product/service expert in order to receive a high rating for competency.

Responsiveness – When customers enter your brick and mortar location, call on the phone, email or initiate a web chat, how long does it take for someone to acknowledge their presence? One of the most dreaded customer experiences is waiting to be serviced or even just to be acknowledged! How long are your customers waiting for service? When issues arise, how long before the situation is addressed and a resolution provided to the customer? The responsiveness clock is ticking in your customer’s head while waiting to be serviced or to receive a reply to inquiry.

Courtesy – In my opinion, this one is the easiest characteristics to exhibit. If there is one thing that we can all control is our ability to be kind and polite. All customers deserve common courtesy. Courtesy goes a long way with customers, especially when they’re unhappy with your product/service. Body language and facial expressions also contribute to the courtesy factor. What score will your customer contact personnel receive for courtesy?

Credibility – Can your customer deem your organization as credible? This characteristic is an image builder. We’re taking about trustworthiness here! Does your performance match what you advertise? Does your organization deliver on its promises? Choosing to take the steps necessary to ensure credibility helps to create a reputation for believability. One act by one person which puts your organization’s credibility into question can be an image killer. Protect your organization’s future by insisting that everyone perform their duties in a manner that passes the credibility test.

Consistency – This is the glue that holds it all together. Consistency creates long term customers. Consider this – If your organization is consistently reliable, competent, responsive, courteous and credible, you’re probably providing many great customer experiences. Consistency means establishing a pattern of behavior. Does your customer’s rating of your organization indicate a pattern of great behavior in regards to the customer experience? Can your customer depend upon your organization to provide a high level of service every time they choose to utilize your products/services? The ability to intermittently exercise the five aforementioned characteristics will not help in your quest to provide great customer service. When consistency is added, long term retention is usually the result.

I’ll say it again – Be Consistently Reliable, Competent, Responsive, Courteous and Credible. Exercising these characteristics will assist your organization in its quest to provide great customer experiences!

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3 Words New Employees Should Avoid

While assisting my wife in preparing for one of her workshops, it became apparent that a few more seats were needed. As I was familiar with this location, I proceeded to the storage room to retrieve the chairs but found the door locked. While speaking with the new receptionist in regards to gaining access to the storage room, she utilized the three words new employees should avoid – “I’m new here and I have no idea where the keys are located.” When one finds him or herself in the position of a new employee, it’s important to refrain from using these three words. Let’s talk about why.

Does Anyone Really Need To Know? – I have often heard supervisors or employers apologizing for the actions of an employee by stating – “I’m sorry, but he/she is new here.” Does the customer really need to know that and furthermore do they really care? Customers are usually unconcerned about a service provider’s tenure with an organization. As we’ve all been that “new employee”, there are times when one may not know the necessary actions to take to handle a particular situation. The apprehension felt by a new employee when presented with a situation for which we may not have an immediate resolution can be overwhelming. It’s important to maintain your composure and do what the veteran employees do – Stall! Ask the customer to allow you a few minutes to get the answer, develop a resolution, etc. Most people are understanding and will grant your request. The customer does not have to know that you’re new and you might even impress your supervisor/manager by taking the necessary actions to provide the best solution. In my example at the beginning of this article, the receptionist could have stated “Sure sir, let me locate those keys.” As she is the receptionist and is responsible for incoming calls, I understood that she was unable to leave the front desk. It would have been okay with me if she had called another employee to assist in locating the keys.

It Sounds Like An Excuse – When a new employee uses the three words “I’m new here” it may be perceived by the customer as an excuse for not being fully prepared to provide a great experience. The organization has a responsibility to provide comprehensive training to new employees which should assist in instilling confidence. Even when equipped with the best training, there will moments when new employees will either “go blank” (a temporary memory lapse) or just have no idea what to do in a given situation. In either case, it’s real easy to resort to that old standby – “I’m new here.” I suggest that one not get into the habit of using these three words as it usually results in a supervisor or manager intervening to provide whatever is needed for that particular situation. Pretty soon everyone grows weary from a new employee’s usage of those three words. Watch, listen and learn from more tenured staff as they handle various situations.

Their Confidence Is At Stake – Should a new employee decide to utilize the dreaded three words in an attempt to garner a customer’s sympathy, it most often results in a blow to the employee’s confidence. Usually, utilization of these words really means “I don’t know what I’m doing.” It’s important for new employees to gain and maintain confidence as quickly as possible. Repeated exposure to situations and scenarios that new employees are ill-equipped to handle can lead to a loss of confidence and increased anxiety or frustration. It doesn’t feel good to be face to face or on the phone with a customer when one is not prepared to provide a great customer experience. Make sure new employees are placed in areas where they can experience early success with customer interactions. Otherwise, sooner or later, someone will surely resort to “Sorry, but I’m new here.“

New employees are dependent upon the organization for proper product/service knowledge training. The use of “I’m new here.” is a sure sign that the employee may not yet be comfortable in their role. Remind new employees to ask themselves before using those three words – Does Anyone Really Need To Know? Remind them that It Sounds Like An Excuse when advising customers that “I’m new here.” Make sure they are properly trained because Their Confidence Is At Stake.

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Are Your Customers Tweeting About You?

While doing a little test on what customers are saying live on Twitter regarding customer service, I noticed that while a multitude of complaints were “Tweeted”, they were very few responses from the company in question. Some of these companies are household names! It was as if all of the negative comments were visible for all to see, yet no one within the organizations were even aware of the remarks. Imagine the damage being done to the brands of these organizations by not responding live to start a conversation to address the concern.

It’s important to know and respond to what your customer is “Tweeting” about your organization. I would think it’s important for prospective customers to see that someone within your organization is on top of the complaints and is seeking to engage with the complainant. Imagine the points “scored” by your organization in the eyes of current and prospective customers when they see that you’re on top of the situation. Ready and responsive! Those are two key words regarding customer complaints. Be ready and available for customer complaints and then respond quickly when one is received. Just as the complainant has placed an issue with your organization in front of Twitter nation, respond in front of Twitter nation by inviting the complainant to contact your organization directly (provide the appropriate contact info) for a resolution. I have seen complainants “Tweet” about how happy they were that their issue was addressed and resolved.

Some organizations may feel that it’s not necessary to monitor Twitter for customer service related issues. I say think again! If the average person utilizing Twitter has let’s say 400 followers and perhaps 20% of those followers actually see the posted complaint, that’s 80 people. Now if these 80 people retweet the complaint to their 400 followers and again 20% see the retweet, that’s 80 more people who are now aware of a customer complaint against your organization. This can quickly get out of hand. By responding live to the issue, these same people may be made aware of your organization’s attempt to resolve the issue.

Believe it or not, customers still love to talk about their experiences. Social media provides an additional avenue for them to utilize to express both their satisfaction and dissatisfaction with your product or service. Just as you would respond to a customer’s face to face or over the phone complaint, develop a strategy for monitoring and responding to Twitter complaints. Your brand is at stake!

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