Blog

helloThe Impact Of Performance Goals On Customer Service
The Impact Of Performance Goals On Customer Service

Does this sound familiar? “I can’t possibly complete all of this work and meet the goals to receive a raise. It just doesn’t seem fair. I don’t think management understands what it takes to actually do this job”. Employees today are experiencing more stress than ever in this era of economic uncertainty.

It’s very important to align workload and performance goals for long-term positive employee morale, long-term profitability, and long-term productivity. Your customers (both external and internal) are impacted by your performance goals. Here are a few issues to consider.

Performance Goals – Is That The Right Number?

When establishing performance goals, take into consideration the total process required for task completion. Base goals on outcomes over which the employee has control. Where the employee has accountability for additional tasks, factor this into goal setting for the employee’s primary responsibility.

This will lead to setting realistic goals. Spend time with the employees as they actually perform their duties to get a “real world” feel for what it takes to perform the job. Include the employees who actually perform the job in establishing goals. An environment of mutual respect will exist as the employees will feel that they were able to participate in creating their own goals.

The level of service provided to the customer is higher when employees are not overly concerned and stressed out daily about meeting performance goals. Taking these steps has a three-fold effect: 1. Improvement in employee morale. 2. You may be able to create a better process. 3. You should be able to determine if the stated goal is the right goal.

Quality Vs Quantity – Which Is Primary?

Does your reward system encourage quality work? A reward system based on unrealistic performance goals tends to promote quantity over quality. As employees struggle to meet the stated goals, quality will surely suffer as shortcuts become the norm in completing tasks.

This can lead to poor work audit results, rework (how much does this cost at your company?), and customer dissatisfaction. Employees are prone to display a sense of hurriedness when interacting with customers if the workload and performance goals are not balanced.

Those employees choosing quality over quantity will become frustrated as their efforts to perform the job properly are rewarded with inquiries regarding their inability to reach the stated goal. In the quantity-over-quality environment created by unrealistic performance goals, long-term productivity is sacrificed for the short-term goal.

Focus on systemic thinking and make this a high priority when designing reward systems. Reward actions that insure fluid cross-functional handoffs. This helps to build a culture of holistic, systemic-minded employees who understand the impact of their work on the product/service system.

Work Environment – Is This A Healthy Place To Work?

It is very important to create a positive work environment as your bottom line is directly impacted by employee morale. An environment where performance goals are fair and obtainable fosters an atmosphere of teamwork as employees do not feel the need to protect their “numbers”.

Unrealistic goals lead to either unwillingness – for fear of not meeting their own goals or inability – due to unrealistic workload – to truly work as a team. Long-term employee frustration usually results in a lower quality of work which ultimately impacts the external customer.

Stress levels increase possibly leading to health issues. Employee turnover increases, as well as some, will seek relief from an atmosphere they deem unfair and unhealthy.

This directly impacts your bottom line as the level of customer service delivered suffers via productivity lost to the need to hire and train new employees. How much does a dissatisfied customer cost your company? Promote employee quality of life versus the “my work is my life” mindset. Give employees a reason to feel good about coming to work.

Performance goals and reward systems are key components of the business environment. Strive to base both on a “real world” workload. Your long-term success depends on it.

Your customer will feel the impact of performance goals and the workload. Balance these two in order to insure that the customer is positively impacted and gets great customer service.

20

read more
helloAngry Customer Prevention
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 to 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 is 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 contributes 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 cost 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 that contribute to the number of angry customers your customer-facing personnel encounter. I can guarantee both customers and employees will love you for that!

0

read more
helloService Recovery
Service Recovery – Regaining Your Customer’s Trust

I know from personal experience that mistakes will happen when servicing customers. Providing the wrong information, delivering the wrong goods, or perhaps even charging the wrong amount for services can sometimes happen because of the people factor involved.

It’s simple – we’re human and we can make mistakes! The key is to determine what one must do to right the situation while at the same time preserving the relationship between the customer and your organization. Here are a few steps that are critical to regaining the customer’s trust.

Acknowledge the Error

The first part of service recovery is to acknowledge that the customer’s expectation of having a great customer experience has not been met. During the customer’s explanation of what has gone wrong from their perspective, make sure to listen intently to the issue.

If verification is needed, do this as quickly as possible to show the customer that you too are concerned about the situation. Once you have in fact determined that an error has occurred, acknowledge and apologize as these two go hand in hand in attempting to regain your customer’s trust. It’s been my own experience that once customers feel heard and their situation acknowledged, their anguish level is lowered significantly.

Here’s What We’ll Do

When attempting to preserve the relationship with customers after an error, correcting the situation in a timely manner will score lots of recovery points. The longer it takes to develop and then provide a resolution, the lower your possibility of retaining the impacted customer.

Make sure your customer-facing employees have options for quickly resolving issues in order to increase the chances of recovering and retaining customers. Get the customer’s buy-in with the proposed resolution.

Doing so helps in getting the situation resolved as the customer feels you made them a participant in developing a satisfactory resolution. Most customers understand that mistakes can and do happen. Don’t take that understanding attitude for granted. Promptly make the customer whole if retention is your goal.

Recently a friend offered a story of how the wrong piece of furniture was delivered twice to her residence. After the second error, she called the store, and just by chance the owner answered the phone.

After explaining the situation, the store owner advised my friend that he would have the correct piece sent out the same day and reimburse her the amount she paid for the piece. While one may not be in a position to offer quite the same resolution as this store owner, imagine how my friend felt about getting the piece for free.

Did the store have to go to such lengths to correct the mistake? My friend stated that she just wanted to get the correct piece – she did not anticipate or expect to get it for free. This store will be where she goes for furniture forever!

Are You Still in Love With Us?

After applying the resolution, I suggest that someone follow up with the customer, if possible, to verify or “take the customer’s temperature” regarding their satisfaction level. The goal is to determine if the customer will continue to purchase goods or services.

This step might be the one to win the customer over after the resolution. Questions such as “How satisfied are you with the resolution?” “How likely are you to make a purchase with us in the future?” or “If you could rate our ability to resolve this situation to your satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 10, where would we rate?” The answers to these questions can help to gauge the effectiveness of your service recovery actions.

If yours is an organization where customers make frequent purchases, monitor their accounts for continued activity and or changes in purchasing patterns as these will be true indicators of your customer’s attitude toward your organization.

Service recovery is important to sustaining a solid business reputation. While mistakes do happen, the customer is depending upon you to quickly correct the situation.

It’s important to acknowledge the Error, determine Here’s What We Will Do to correct the situation and get the customer’s buy-in, then determine Are You Still in Love With Us? by following up to determine if your customer is likely to make future purchases with your organization. Earn back your customer’s trust with these simple steps.

0

read more
helloThe Big E Word in Customer Service
The Big E Word in Customer Service

When speaking with managers in the customer service industry, this comment is often repeated – “I just wish I could get my people to show more empathy towards the customer.” Empathy – The big E word in customer service.

One’s ability to sincerely interject this trait in customer service is critical. It’s important to properly express empathy when customers are upset or angry with your company’s products or services. Let’s look at a few ways to express empathy.

How Would I Feel?

Empathy is the art of putting one’s self in another’s shoes. One can ask one’s self – If I were in this situation, how would I feel? The action of mentally pausing to consider this question allows one to “feel” what the other person is actually experiencing.

When customers are unhappy, upset, or disgruntled, they usually just want someone to listen to and acknowledge their particular situation. When customers feel “heard”, more often than not their level of discontentment is reduced. It’s important to place one’s self in the customer’s shoes!

What Would I Expect?

When exercising one’s empathy skills, it should be natural to ask one’s self: What would I expect as a resolution if I was experiencing this situation? If you know what you would expect, examine your options for the best way to resolve the customer’s situation.

Should your options not include what you feel might be the best solution, make suggestions to upper management to get additional options included to insure customers are satisfied with your offerings for resolving the situation. When customers feel that you’ve provided the optimal solution for their situation, the chances of retaining them as customers are greatly enhanced.

Do I Trust You?

When assisting an unhappy, upset, or disgruntled customer, exercising empathy helps to build rapport and establish trust. Think about it – if someone is indifferent towards your situation, how can you trust that they will put forth their best efforts to provide the appropriate resolution? Ask yourself, how can I get this person to know that I understand and truly empathize with their situation? Once the person truly feels that you are sincere when exercising empathy, they are more than likely to accept the offered resolution.

Are You Listening?

In order to empathize with others, one must first be willing to listen to their story. Utilizing effective listening skills is paramount to the customer feeling that you are being empathetic. When face-to-face with customers, be sure to maintain eye contact as this indicates to the customer that you’re focused on them.

Watch your body language and facial expressions as these are indicators of how you truly feel about the customer’s situation. It’s pretty easy for customers to determine if you’re really paying attention to what they’re saying when face to face.

When on the phone with customers, your voice tone and inflections provide assurance that you are listening. Allow the customer to get their whole story out before attempting to offer a solution. Interject with ” I understand your frustration.” or “I too would be unhappy if in this situation.” when the customer pauses while voicing their displeasure as these are indicators to the customer that you are in fact listening.

Restate the customer’s issue to reassure the customer that you were in fact listening and understanding their situation. Effective listening skills are the foundation for empathizing with customers. Remember, more listening and less talking leads to retaining an upset customer.

Employing the art of empathy can be the difference in one’s attempt to retain an angry customer. Empathize sincerely by asking yourself – How Would I Feel?, What Would I Expect?, Do I Trust You? and Are You Listening?

0

read more