By James A. Baker
Founder and Chairman
Customer-facing jobs of all kinds are sometimes not given much regard. It is often assumed that anyone can act as a receptionist or customer service representative, answer the phone, or check out customers. This unfortunate misconception is based on the fact that such customer-facing positions are often entry-level and lack high requirements for either experience or education. The fact is, though, that customer-facing employees are tremendously important to the success of your business. If your customers are not taken care of properly, you lose them!
Hiring for Customer Service
Being a customer service representative is not an easy job. Some people simply don’t have what it takes to effectively work in customer service. Some may not possess the requisite interpersonal skills or emotional awareness. Some lack the inner fortitude necessary to handle the unique stresses of such a position. As a business owner or manager, you need to know what to look for when hiring customer service professionals, or you’ll be looking at high turnover and dissatisfied customers instead.
Here are some factors to emphasize when selecting and developing your service personnel:
To serve customers effectively requires a level of maturity and professionalism, a strong sense of self as well as a desire to help others. This combination isn’t inherent in everyone’s DNA! Stay aware of this when hiring for customer service positions, and if the candidate is unsuitable, you can do both them and your company a favor by helping them find a job outside of the service organization.
Even if they are entry-level jobs, it doesn’t pay to place unqualified or inexperienced people in customer service positions. If you do, you will be doing both your employees and your customers an injustice. Ill-equipped, unprepared customer service staff will easily become overwhelmed, and customers will be frustrated.
Training for Customer Service
Even after you fill out your customer service ranks with suitable personnel, the job of developing an outstanding customer service culture is not done. Every customer-facing employee will benefit from good service training, particularly customer service representatives.
Any training program for customer service staff should include a basic curriculum on emotional intelligence, understanding and relating to others. Representatives should be instructed on how to make customers feel important and comfortable, and how to question customers to gain a thorough understanding of their feelings and problems. Customer service training should also provide techniques for building rapport and outline a procedure for problem-solving.
In addition to the essentials of customer service skills, representatives should have a thorough understanding of their own responsibilities, the scope of their authority, and the company’s policies. In general, the more decisions and determinations the representatives are able to make on their own, the better. Giving representatives some personal authority to make customer satisfaction concessions increases their ability to help customers without having to contact management, eliminating delays and frustration.
Developing Superior Customer Service
With careful personnel selection and good training, you will have the foundation for an outstanding customer service culture. Keep in mind that investing in customer service means investing in your company’s success. Good customer service creates loyal customers and repeat business. Live up to and exceed your customers’ expectations, and watch your business thrive.
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