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Four service questions your firm must answer to avoid social media shame

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23rd Nov 2009
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When reviewing your service strategy and clients’ experience, Susan Hoekstra suggests you ask yourself the following questions...

Social media, such as Youtube, Facebook and blogs can rapidly spread word about customer service issues or shortcomings. This makes delivering a consistent and excellent experience that much more important. 
When reviewing your service strategy and clients’ experience, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Do your clients want to continue doing business with your firm as a result of the actions of your employees? Employees represent the firm. To the client, employees are the firm. If clients encounter an 'attitude of indifference', or the 'not-my-job syndrome' when issues occur, they’re much more likely to take things in their own hands. Do employees realise how important they are to your clients’ experience? 

2. What policies do you have in place that are not client-centric? Consider the following situations and ask yourself if any of these pertains to yourself or your company:  
 

  • Being consistently late for meetings or appointments. Yes, we know you're important, and everyone is occasionally late. However if you are habitually late, the message you send is that you are more important than everyone else. On those rare occasions when you are running late, call or send a message so others may not be waiting for you. Otherwise, make every effort to attend meetings or appointments on time. 
  • Consistently running meetings that go over schedule. Similar to always being late if you are attending a meeting, if you are running a meeting, ensure your meetings start and end on time.  Have an agenda and objectives and keep the meeting on track. Follow-up after the meeting with the agreed to deliverables, so everyone is on the same page. 
  • Not taking into account the time sensitivity of a matter to your clients: My tax accountant this year was behind in his work. I understood that.  However, I was getting a large refund! Although I'm sure people who needed to pay wouldn't mind waiting a little longer for the final number, I most certainly did. 
  • Not meeting commitments: If you promise to deliver information, documents, or anything else for that matter, give your clients and colleagues a specific date and time as to when you will be able to deliver, and then meet that commitment.
  • Implementing a prompt menu on the phone designed to 'count' calls,so employees are saved the time of categorising calls. You know the phone messages:  press 1  press 2 ... press 103 ....  Only simple menus should be considered acceptable and menu prompts only inserted to route calls to employees with different knowledge, skills or level of experience. 
  • Setting up phone coverage so there is a long queue waiting to speak to someone:  Rather than staff contact centers adequately, some queues waiting to speak to someone border on the ridiculous.  But don't worry, because "Your call is important to them ..."
  • Putting clients on hold without asking:  Ask if you may put the call on hold before doing so (and wait for the response!).  If it is going to take more than 30 seconds to research the answer, make the client aware of that and ask if they would prefer a call back.    

3. Do you put employees put in the tough spot of implementing policies that aren't in the best interest of your clients? You won't be able to convince your employees, let alone your clients, that customers are important if your policies aren't aligned. In order to ensure you are aligned do the following: 

  • Hire service-oriented people, not only for the front-line positions, but for every position within the company. Front-line employees will not be able to compensate for decisions made elsewhere within the organisation that are not in the clients' best interests.   
  • Look at the experience provided to your clients from their perspective.  Review feedback, suggestions, and frequent issues. Challenge those policies, products and services that aren't in your clients' best-interest.  
  • After looking at the big service picture, realise it's the little things that are causing many of your client's poor service experiences. In other words, while you may be focused on the product, pricing, and aesthetics of your company, your clients are leaving because of the interaction they had with an employee, whose name you can't even recall. Focus on your employees in the following ways:
  1. Communicate regularly with your employees about their importance to delivering a great service experience. Provide them best-practice tips on how they can deliver an excellent experience.
  2. Integrate service into standing staff meetings, so service becomes a part of every discussion, and best-practices can be learned and shared. 
  3. Offer customer-service training to all of your employees. No one of us should ever feel we know everything about service and can't learn something to improve our service delivery. Consistently challenge yourself and your staff to improve the service experiences provided. 
  4. Reward great service. If you say service is important, and yet the non-service-oriented employees within your organisation seem to be the ones recognised, your rhetoric will fall on deaf ears. Ensure your words and actions match one another, thereby encouraging employees to deliver a great service experience consistently. 
  5. What service recovery process does your company have in place that would stop a posting on from occurring? If a posting occurred, how would even know? Is the process well thought out, or is your clients' experience left to chance? 
  6. Is the true cost of not resolving issues taken into consideration when implementing policies or making decisions? You may be profitable, but how much more profitable could you be if the negative press that results from social media existed.
4. Do you make it easy for your clients to complain? To the chagrin of my teenage sons, I recently joined Facebook. It is fun to catch up with old classmates I may not have spoken to in years. I know when one of my friends is anticipating making a purchase, has gone to a good restaurant, found a bargain, or conversely had a poor service experience, purchased an inferior product, or has been wronged by their service provider. In the case of a poor service experience, they let their friends know they should not frequent this or that establishment, purchase this merchandise, or be otherwise subjected to a certain vendor's service. And let me tell you. They don't mince words. I understand why employees may not want to listen to client complaints, and I myself cringe every time someone points out something I've done wrong. It's human nature. However, this attitude can be very dangerous. Review Dave Carroll's hysterical YouTube video of United Breaks Guitars that details his experience with United Airlines. To date, 5.8 million viewers have logged in. 

Still don't think social media is powerful? That's what your competition hopes you believe as well.  And, from a service perspective, not having a strategy around your client’s experience so you can combat the forces of social media is very dangerous. 

So next time you review (or don’t review) your clients’ experience, consider social media. For instead of telling you about their experience, they could be literally telling the world.
Susan Hoekstra is an experienced customer service expert, senior manager and consultant who spent the past 25 years working with multi-sized, fast-paced, highly volatile companies in the manufacturing, distribution, membership services, franchise and financial services industries. Over the years, she has developed a penchant for developing strategic service initiatives that drive growth and value to clients, employees and shareholders. Susan owns her own customer service consulting company, has written The Service Journey, a customer service strategy book and has held senior management roles in various industries. Her website is http://www.theservicejourney.com and http://blog.theservicejourney.com.
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