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The People or the Process?

When issues arise when a customer is dissatisfied or a mistake occurs, it’s commonplace to blame employees for the customer’s discontent. Now I’m in the mindset that most people come to work to do a good job. I believe that most people do not get up in the morning thinking “I’m going to purposely create chaos for customers and peers at work today!” Every once in a while you’ll find a knucklehead employee that just wants to do what they want to do, but that’s rare in my opinion. I’m more inclined to believe that it’s more than likely a process issue vs an employee issue.

When speaking of processes as the culprit, I’m thinking of two processes in particular:

The process/processes connected to the issue.
The employee training process for the process/processes connected to the issue.
Let’s take a look at each of these.

The Process/Processes Connected to the Issue
Identify and examine the process/processes connected to the issue. Are there gaps that create customer dissatisfaction?. Employees create work arounds (Yep, I’ve done it too!) to bad processes. Employees also create processes when an adequate one does not exist in attempt to make sure things go smoothly. Remember, most people come to work to do a good job and often go to these lengths to do so.

The Employee Training Process for the Process/Processes Attached to the Issue
Now let’s say that the process is well defined and contains all of the necessary elements of a good process. The next question to ask is – What does the employee training process look like? It doesn’t matter that you have a great process when the employee training process is lacking. It’s imperative that employees are provided with the proper training to ensure that their actions do not negatively impact the processes in which they operate. Training should include verification that employees comprehend the training and can demonstrate the ability to correctly perform their process tasks.

When customer discontent presents itself, be more inclined to focus on processes. It’s not always a people issue.

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Internal Connectivity – 3 Ways to Determine How Well Your Company is Connected

While it is important to focus on sales growth and profit margins, it’s also critical to understand what is connected to a company’s ability to function well internally. You know how the saying goes – “what happens on the inside becomes visible on the outside.” Here are 3 ways to determine how well your company is connected internally.

Core Values

It is a good idea to have a set of core values as they are connected to the culture of the company. Core values should define:

How the company will treat the employees.

How the employees will treat one another.

How everyone will treat the customer.

When these are defined with core value statements and adhered to, the culture should be a positive one where everyone is treated with respect and dignity – even when disagreeing. No one is allowed to violate the core values as they are the foundation of the company. Are your core values well defined and adhered to by all?

Role Descriptions and Performance Standards

Role descriptions act as another agent of connectivity in two ways. First, they provide detailed information regarding what role is responsible for what tasks. Secondly role descriptions are connected to the training experience as they act as the training outline for the role. When a new employee or an employee moving to a new role is trained, the role description is utilized to ensure the person receives training for each task that they will be held accountable for performing.

Performance standards are connected to a couple of items as well. They speak to the standard to which the person is held accountable when performing tasks listed on the role description. When combined with the role description, this is connected to employees receiving an objective performance review. Most employees prefer objectivity vs subjectivity when it comes to performance reviews. When employees feel that they are managed objectively, morale tends to be higher. So, we can say that objectively managing employees is connected to employee morale. How well is your company connected in this area?

Processes

Remember, when we listed the role tasks on the role description? Well, more than likely there is a process for completing the tasks. Analyzing your current processes is connected to your company’s ability to operate efficiently and effectively. When processes are analyzed with employees that participate in the process and or are impacted by the process, cross functional connectivity is addressed to ensure the needs of all within the process are met.

As a consultant, I often find that task completion procedures are not captured in any format. Creating written or video procedures for completing tasks is connected to employees being properly trained which is connected to customers – both internal and external customers – receiving a good experience. Procedure creation is also connected to the retention of task completion knowledge vs someone having this critical information in their head. What are the consequences should this person decide to leave the company? How well is your company connected in this area?

Internal connectivity is important to a company’s long-term viability. Look at the three areas discussed in this article. What does the internal connectivity look like at your company? Check your connections to ensure you stay on the path to longevity.

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Sales Tactics Do Create Customer Experiences

How often have you heard this statement from customer service personnel within your company – “I wish those salespeople would think about what they’re doing when making promises to customers. I’m tired of being yelled at for something that’s not my fault.” It’s important to remember to only promise what can be delivered when interacting with potential customers – especially when they are purchasing big-ticket items. Here are a few things to remember when using promises as sales tactics to sell products and services to customers.

Promise Only What Can Be Delivered
During my years in the corporate world, the issue of “Why did the salesperson promise that without verifying if we could meet that commitment” would often arise. That statement was usually followed up with “They only think about their commission!” While it’s understandable that salespeople are motivated by potential commissions, it’s critical to make sure that sales guidelines are in place to ensure a positive impact to those persons within the organization that have to service the customer. Whether it be customer service, accounts receivable or any other department that interacts with customers, salespeople must understand and adhere to the policies and or procedures when in the sales mode. Should the need arise for special consideration in order to “get the deal”, check in with those persons who will be impacted by whatever the consideration is before making promises to the customer. Remember – customers view the people within your company as “the company”.

Develop Internal Relationships
Years ago when beginning a corporate stint as an account manager/project manager, my first week was spent meeting those persons with whom I impacted in performing my role. My first question was – “How does what I do impact you?” That question was followed by this one – “What is it that you want me to do to make your job easy?” This question was followed by this one – “What is it that you don’t ever want me to do?” Asking these questions allowed these persons to elaborate on what they were held accountable for and how performing my job could either bring positive or negative consequences for them. By taking time to develop internal relationships, one communicates “We Are A Team” to others within the company. Yes, it takes additional time to ask these questions, but it’s well worth it later in the relationship!

Be Accountable for Your Actions
Should issues arise due to sales methods, it’s the responsibility of the salesperson to be accountable. I think salespeople should be kept abreast of every issue related to promises made, but not kept, that arise with their customers. Doing so would assist in understanding the impact of one’s actions. Persons required to service the customer after the sale should know that they will receive the same internal considerations afforded to the paying customer. When salespeople are held accountable for their sales methods, the level of employee morale increases as one does not fear having to regularly interact with customers who were provided unfulfilled promises during the sales process.

The sales component of a company’s business model is most likely the original experience for potential customers. Make sure that your salespeople understand their impact to the total customer experience by making sure they Promise Only What Can Be Delivered, by requiring them to Develop Internal Relationships and by encouraging them to Be Accountable for Their Actions.

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Angry Customer Prevention

Having been in the customer service industry for 25+ years, I’ve heard, seen, attended and listened to various programs/seminars regarding “how to handle an angry customer”. Most often, these programs/seminars are very informative and provide excellent guidance on dealing with a not so happy customer. My question has always been – Why is the customer unhappy and is there anything that can be done to diminish the number of unhappy customers? My instincts say take a proactive stance in the battle to prevent angry customers. Here are a few ways to do so.

Why Are Customers Unhappy?
Is there a pattern to the reasons that customers are unhappy? Is anyone in your organization tracking these reasons? It’s been my experience that if you have one customer complaining about an issue or situation, more than likely there are others complaining about the same things. During one call center stint, it was common for customers on certain billing cycles to experience problems with their bills – improper amounts, additional charges, etc. We all know that this issue will certainly create angry customers and additional phone calls. While it’s important for the agents to be equipped with “how to handle angry customers” skills, how about determining what’s causing the “angry customer” issues. Identify external and internal issues that might be contributing to your customers’ unhappiness with your organization. Doing so will surely diminish or even eliminate the need for the customers to call and for customer service personnel to exercise their “how to handle angry customers” skills for these particular issues. Oh yeah, be sure that your customer facing personnel are equipped with the proper customer interaction soft skills – voice tone, empathy, body language, etc. – so that they do not inadvertently create an angry customer!

Why Are Front Line Personnel Unhappy?
It’s been my experience that unhappy employees are an indicator that there may be organizational issues that negatively impact customers. Customer facing employees become frustrated and angry when it appears no one is interested in addressing issues which contribute to the creation of angry customers. Check with your customer facing employees regarding their experiences when dealing with customers. Are processes both customer and employee friendly? Is the training received sufficient to allow for successful customer interactions? Can employees count on the “system” functioning properly so that they can provide a great customer experience therefore preventing the need to exercise their “how to handle angry customers” skills? Take the time to get and act upon feedback provided by customer facing employees. You might be surprised by how doing so can assist in reducing the number of angry customers for your organization.

How Many Credits or Refunds Are You Issuing?
Another possible indicator of angry customers is the amount of products/services given away, account credits or refunds issued by your organization. Is anyone attaching a reason for these actions? Does your organization’s system allow for logging the reasons for refunds, account credits or other actions taken to appease angry customers? It’s important to monitor these areas as they may be an indicator that customers are not happy with your products or services. Allow your customer facing employees the ability to provide reasons for taking these actions. Analyze these reasons and identify ways to prevent their continuance. Determine how much these refunds, credits or provision of goods/services costs your organization. Spend time with customer facing personnel during their interactions with angry customers to get first hand experience of what appeasement actions are utilized. One’s willingness to take these steps will surely lead to a decrease in the number of angry customers.

It’s a great idea to equip customer facing personnel with “how to handle angry customers” skills. Doing so gives them the confidence to properly handle the situation. Take an additional step by proactively identifying and addressing issues which contribute to the number of angry customers your customer facing personnel encounter. I can guarantee both customers and employees will love you for that!

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