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3 Benefits of Analyzing Work Processes

In a current client engagement, we are analyzing their work processes. Now more often than not, this can be very tedious work. The whole purpose of undertaking this task is to assess the present condition of the company’s operations in regards to efficiency, customer centricity and employee productivity. While this may seem to be a daunting task, the return on the time investment is well worth the effort. Let’s look at three benefits of analyzing processes.

Insights Gained
An important step in process analysis projects is to interview the people who actually perform the work in the process. I like to spend time with a client’s employees as they perform their duties and document step by step what they actually do when completing job tasks. The amount of insight gained from this approach usually proves very enlightening to management personnel. Oftentimes, employees develop their own set of work steps to complete their tasks within the process. When they deem the process too cumbersome or inefficient, employees will create “work arounds” in order to get the work done in a timely manner – especially when their pay is tied to performance. After completing this task, opportunities to remove delays or inefficiencies and to introduce improvements become apparent.

Teamwork
It’s true that most processes are cross functional – meaning they may start in one department and travel across others within the company. Analyzing processes requires participation from everyone that performs a task within the process. I like to get all of the participants in one room and go through the process step by step to insure that “yes – that’s how we do it today.” Then we start to get process improvement ideas. Discussions arise in regards to the proper way to complete the steps within the process. Employees can communicate face to face to build a process that fits the needs of all departments, stakeholders, and customers. Once done, employees feel as though they have a stake in the success of the process, as they were given the opportunity to communicate their ideas and concerns.

Enhanced Training
Proficiency in one’s assigned tasks helps to build confidence in employees. Training is one way to assist in building proficiency. As a company analyzes and documents all of its work processes, training tools become easily creatable. These documented processes can be used to develop standard operating procedures and policies. Both new and tenured employees now have a reference point to insure they are properly performing their assigned duties. “How to” documents and videos are some additional training products that can be produced when one develops and documents efficient, employee and customer friendly processes. Your entire operation will certainly run smoother, your employees will be happier and your customers will certainly receive great service.

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Stuck in the Middle – Do Customers Belong Here?

While on a client engagement, I could hear customer service personnel repeatedly apologizing to customers. When asked why, they informed me of a scenario where customers make purchases and are promised a 24hr installation of the product by one department, when in fact, the department in question had no idea if the promise could be met. The customer was stuck in the middle between the sales department and the installation department. It’s important to remember to make sure your customer’s experience is as seamless as possible. Let’s look at a few ways to accomplish this feat.

Establish Customer – Focused Policies
When developing policies and procedures for customer service personnel to follow, it’s important to remember to get their input. After all, they’re being held accountable for both adhering to the policy and providing a great customer experience. They know what drives the customer crazy about your company’s policies and procedures. For instance – if your company has a product return policy, be sure to take into consideration how this will impact both customers and customer service personnel. Will you allow returns for specific reasons? Make sure the customer is fully aware of your return policy when they make a purchase. If your customer purchases your product online, make sure that your return policy is prominently displayed on the page where the purchase is completed. Will you allow blanket returns – or in other words – can they just bring it or send it back for whatever reason? Think about this – Do your policies make sense? Are they easily understandable by customers? Will they encourage repeat business? Will they incent customers to refer your company to potential customers? These are some issues to consider when developing policies and procedures.

Create Employee Autonomy
Often times the customer ends up in the middle of your policies when customer service personnel are not provided with the power to make decisions. When working with a hospitality client recently, it became apparent that front desk personnel were not equipped with options to deal with a variety of situations they faced when dealing with hotel guests. After about 15 minutes of identifying issues which required they contact either the hotel general manager or assistant general manager, we were able to create options that could be utilized without the need to contact anyone. The front desk personnel were visibly relieved upon the completion of this exercise as they could now feel good about their ability to make decisions that were both good for guests and for the hotel. Give customer facing personnel options that can be executed autonomously. It’s a good idea for both customers and customer facing personnel.

Communicate Internally
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, it’s of the utmost importance to make sure that there is good cross functional communication within your company. Make sure that everyone understands how their roles impact other employees, departments, etc. Your customer need not be caught in the middle due to poor communication within your company. The goal should be to ensure that the customer receives a great experience. This requires setting customer expectations that are achievable by personnel who will actually perform what the customer requires. When developing policies and procedures that impact customers, remember to get input from all departments that contribute to and or participate in the process of providing a great customer experience. As my Dad used to say – “Everything you do affects someone else. You do nothing in isolation.” One should never hear this statement from a customer – “It seems as though you all do not communicate with each other there.” If you do, it’s an indication that you probably need to work on improving internal communications.

Well, there you have it. In order to make sure your customer is not “stuck in the middle”, be sure to Establish Customer-Focused Policies, Create Employee Autonomy and Communicate Internally. Doing so will lead to both great customer and employee experiences.

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The Five Big No No’s of Customer Service – by Adele Halsall

If you’ve worked in customer service for any length of time, you’ll know by now what NOT to do when assisting and conversing with customers.

However, it never hurts to get reacquainted with the basics every now and then, especially when new employees are welcomed into your team. With so many different approaches, methods and technology being built around improving customer service, it can be easy to get lost in the fog and lose sight of what customer service is really all about.

So keep things simple by avoiding these five major no no’s of customer service. Set your goals and practices around this motive, and everything else should fall into place.

Promise What Is Impossible
It may be tempting, especially in the stages of advertising and marketing your business to the consumer audience, to make grand claims about things that your product or service is capable of. Whether you simply exaggerate, tell customers what you think they wish to hear, or entice them with an outright fabrication…it’s all very much a recipe for disaster.

Building a durable customer relationship starts with demonstrating honesty and exercising transparency within your business. It is always better to set customer expectations within the boundaries of what is realistic and then surprise them, rather than raise their hopes and disappoint them. This is also especially important in times of crisis, when an explanation is most certainly likely to be requested by the customer. British airline Flybe’s customer services were publically criticised for their lack of transparency when informing customers of cancelled flights just days before departure.

Remember to keep your promises simple. If your service seems too good to be true, customers will know it.

Tell The Customer What They Want
A dedicated customer service is all about listening carefully to the customers’ needs and wants, whether on a mass scale or in a face-to-face sales interaction. Once employees know what a customer wants, they can set about finding them a tailored product that best suits their needs, rather than push a slow-seller.

This is something Rowena Bird, co-founder of LUSH Cosmetics, strongly recommends.

“It is vital that our teams understand the products they are selling so they can find the correct product for each customer,” she says. “Not just sell them the latest favourite.”

Be Rude, Irritated And/Or Bored
Customers are sensitive to the reactions and behaviours of employees, and will instantly pick up on negative attitudes. When there is a problem, you should see it not as an annoyance but as an opportunity to impress.

The importance of positive communication therefore cannot be overstated, regardless of the time of day, the type of customer or the difficulty of their query. Simple tactics like smiling, using the customer’s name and asking them how they feel that day are all effective ways to boost their confidence and their mood. This ensures they’ll be more likely to leave happy even if their issue does not get resolved.

Customer service speaker John Tschohl is one expert who speaks strongly of the habits of courtesy.

“In seconds a customer can tell if they are loved or not loved, whether it’s in the tone of voice or the body language,” he says. “In seconds they can just tell. And to be nice, it doesn’t take any more time.”

Pass Off Responsibility Of Knowledge
This applies to both knowing the company’s products and services, and the ability to perform required tasks or processes. Customers don’t expect employees to know or be able to do absolutely everything, but they do expect them to go some way towards finding the answer.

All employees should be trained thoroughly on the line of products and services being sold by the company – even a basic knowledge will stand them in good stead to answer customers’ questions. When an employee doesn’t know an answer, they should ask another employee or do some quick research on the customer’s behalf.

By the same token, employees shouldn’t ignore or refuse a customer request just because they don’t have the knowledge or authority to perform a task, or because it is ‘not their responsibility’. Employees should seek to learn a new skill, or refer the customer immediately to someone who is better equipped to help them.

Let Policies & Procedures Become More Important Than The Customer
When sticking to the rules or company policies is going to create an unhappy customer, this is not good customer service. This could be anything from opening hours, to shipping or refund policies, or rules regarding payment. Even with all these rules in place, you should be prepared to listen to the customer’s story and see how you can bend the rules to ensure they walk away satisfied.

“Customer service is all about taking care of your customers,” customer service speaker Shep Hyken explains. “It’s about going the extra mile to fulfil customer needs, even if it stretches slightly outside of your company’s day-to-day routine. If somebody is capable of helping, they should do it.”

When you refuse to help a customer because of a minor rule or regulation, you are placing greater importance on bureaucracy than your customer’s happiness. And that’s just dumb.

About AdeleAdele
Adele Halsall is a writer and researcher for Customer Service Guru. She is passionate about retail and consumer trends, and how this is shaped and governed by advertising and social marketing.

She is particularly experienced in marketing and customer engagement, and enjoys contributing to ongoing debates related to best business practices, start-up culture, and the culture of customer relations. Email her at adele@customerserviceguru.co.uk or @gurucustomers

Visit the Customer Service Guru website at: http://www.customerserviceguru.co.uk/

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Filling the Gaps for Better Customer Experiences

Creating a great customer experience hinges on one’s ability to develop a well oiled system. Two key factors of the system are the people working within the system and the people served by the system as both have expectations of the system. When expectations go unmet, gaps exist. Let’s talk about several of these gaps.

What Does the Customer Expect vs What is Provided? – When what the customer receives does not measure up to what’s expected, a gap exists. This gap may pertain to the quality of the product or the level of service provided by your company. How does one determine customer expectations? Simply ask!! Utilize market research to get clarification on customer expectations . For example, when customers visit the post office during their lunch break, they expect to find an ample number of post office employees available to provide service at the front counter. If the majority of the post office employees themselves are on lunch break, a gap exists in the level of service the customer expects to receive vs the level of service they actually receive. Talk with key clients about their expectations. Regularly review your customer complaints to identify what needs to be addressed within your organization. Get feedback from employees who spend the majority of their time servicing customers. The information provided by these sources will certainly identify what’s important to the customer and assist in closing the expectation gap.

Who’s Committed to Service – Delivery Quality? – Commitment to quality is paramount to creating customer experiences. When leadership is more concerned with cost reductions and short-term profits, the focus on service-delivery quality is usually not a high priority. While companies may focus on quality from an internal point of view – production schedule or production efficiency for example – the customer has no interest in the internal measurements. What about your product or service is important to the customer? Is it the ease of operation of your product? Or maybe it’s the timeframe between ordering and receiving your product? Is it the ease to access product or service information on your website? What about the timeliness of your response to their service or product inquires? Might it be the quality of the interaction when being serviced by your company’s employees? These are just a few measurements to consider when setting quality standards for service – delivery. Fill this gap by focusing on customer – centered measurements vs producer centered measurements. When service – delivery quality is a high priority, one can almost count on improved profits via developing loyal long-term customers.

Can You Standardize That Task? – There is a belief in the service industry, that task standardization leaves no room for the provision of a “personal experience” for the customer. There are however, routine tasks that lend themselves to standardization. Consider the task of opening a new personal bank account. While there is a need to have a personal conversation with the new account holder, the tasks required to actually open the personal account are probably the same for each customer. Task standardization can actually help to insure that every customer receives the same level of service. Focusing on standardization can close the gap created when the customer interacts with different service providers within your organization. When all service providers are required to adhere to the standards, the customer is the beneficiary. Are there routine tasks within your company that lend themselves to standardization?

Identifying and closing customer experience gaps within your company is critical to long-term success. Understand your customer’s expectations. Commit to the quality of service-delivery. Consider standardizing routine tasks for consistent customer interactions. Focusing on closing these gaps will prove to be profitable endeavors for your company.

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