Customer Service: External, Internal and Beyond
Customer service, we hear about it a lot, but what is it? Its meaning differs from person to person, but traditionally I think customer service has been defined as providing excellent care and service to customers that experience or purchase a company’s services or products. However, it goes well beyond that. A businesses’ customer service spans across the organization from the inside out. Solid internal customer service sets the tone for successful external interactions with customers.
A key component to outstanding customer experiences starts internally with how employees and leaders treat, interface and speak to each other. The goal is treating each other just like your external customers. When this happens, it creates a respectful work environment, where engagement and connection create awareness. What I mean by that is, employees that respect each other, tend to engage more and this leads to an understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities. Too many times we become myopic in our own work and don’t understand how our work dominos into our fellow co-workers’ jobs. When workers have an idea of what their colleagues are doing, they begin to see other perspectives and with the help of leadership, start to see how it all fits into the bigger picture. For instance, an employee collects pertinent information from a customer for an upcoming appointment but did not get accurate insurance billing information. When the billing department tries to submit for payment, the request is denied, and the customer is upset because they think they will be stuck with the bill. If the employee collecting the information understood the importance of documenting accurate data and how not doing so effects the outcome for the customer and company, then the chances of missing that information in the future could potentially diminish. Knowing the details of everyone’s job is not the goal, but the goal is to understand functions of organizational roles and how those functions can affect other’s duties, positively or negatively. I believe, good internal synergy can lead to better customer service.
Another factor to consider when thinking about customer service is getting feedback from your consumer base. Developing surveys with focused questions on experience and service is a good tool to find out about customers’ likes and dislikes. Focus groups are another way to capture a good cross section of the market community. Asking the right questions and showing the community the organization cares about what they have to say, strengthens brand, reputation and the business. Lastly, taking time to speak with a cross section of your customer base, one on one, is a wonderful way to gain perspective. In one of my leadership positions I walked customers out from their appointments and asked them about their experience, what we did well and what we could do better. I usually polled about 2-4 customers a week. This gave me time with customers, allowed them to express their opinions and provided opportunity to enhance experience.
No matter how a company engages customers or how they collect data, it is imperative a business stays connected to their consumer base and fosters an internal environment of strong customer service. Strong internal customer service will no doubt seep beyond organizational walls to positively effect clients and retain a loyal consumer base, in addition to attracting more customers in the long run.
Disclaimer: the advice in this blog is meant to provide guidance and be thought provoking. It is the writer’s opinion only.