12 Powerful Customer Service Questions: An Organizational View

by Joan Hebert, Hebert Performance Training

Most companies see the ultimate value in offering superior customer service, yet many fail to recognize the numerous organizational factors that impact their ability to provide exceptional service. To attain a truly customer-focused organization, a continual assessment of the culture and every process within the organization must be maintained. Following are a list of questions to answer regarding your organization’s ability to “wow” customers.

1. A Customer-Focused Environment

Is the topic of customer service frequently discussed within the organization? Are customer satisfaction, dissatisfaction, and ideas for improving customer service, topics for employee meetings, recognition programs, company newsletters, and discussed “openly” as a way of daily organizational life?

Does the environment within your organization convey customer-focused leadership? Are employees told one thing, but see their leaders not “walking the talk?” Are policies customer-focused, or do they tend to drive customers to competitors by not being easy to do business with?

Are there customer service “standards” in place to specify the desired level of performance? There are often sales objectives and other quantifiable internal goals, yet are there customer service standards to address what the customer sees, hears and experiences when doing business with your organization? How long should a customer have to wait to get a return telephone call, or to get the correct answer to a question? How should customers be greeted? What kind of “options” and alternatives should be offered to customers?

How are customer complaints resolved? What kind of “service recovery” (compensating the customer) currently exists when your organization makes a mistake, or the customer thinks you made a mistake? Are employees empowered to fix customer problems? Empowering employees not only builds their self-esteem, but also can expedite and alleviate a potentially poor customer experience. How cumbersome is the process for employees to satisfy disgruntled customers?

Does a recognition program exist which is based on satisfying the customer? Many successful organizations, including Disney, have a culture where employees recognize other employees for not only satisfying “external” customers, but for satisfying “internal” customers. Catch each other doing something right, and reward it. A reward may not necessarily be monetary, but some form of recognition, praise, or a simple “thank you.” A great book on recognition is “1001 Ways to Reward Employees” by Bob Nelson, which has many cost effective ways to recognize employees.

2. Feedback, Feedback, and More Feedback

Does your organization have an ongoing method for “listening” to front-line employees? Does the organization value input from employees? Are there open discussions with employees to gather “their” suggestions, customer comments, and ideas for improvement? If not, you are missing your closest contact with customers.

What method does your organization use to get “feedback” from customers? Is feedback gathered in-person from customers, over the telephone, or on a written feedback form? Do you have a process to measure customers’ satisfaction with a particular “transaction,” as well as their over-all level of satisfaction with the organization? Do you actually know what customers “value,” versus what you think they value? Is the customer feedback regularly shared with employees or kept hidden in the corporate office?

Do supervisors spend the necessary time giving feedback regarding performance? Feedback is needed not just once a year or quarterly, but continuously on a daily basis. Is there significant positive feedback, or do you tend to miss the “99 things done right” and catch the “one thing done wrong?” If supervisors are trained in customer service and in coaching skills they can more successfully guide and develop employees’ self-esteem, performance and satisfaction level.

3. Do They Know How to Do It?

What kinds of training have your front-line employees, supervisory and leadership teams received? Is an incorrect assumption made that everyone comes to their job with “top-notch” customer service, supervisory, and leadership skills? In all cases, there is always room for improvement in moving the organization to an even higher level of performance.

Do front-line employees know how to create a customer-focused experience? Do they understand the importance of making every customer contact a memorable, positive, and professional encounter? Do they understand how communication (verbal and nonverbal) impacts how customers perceive the organization’s receptiveness to their needs? Do those who answer customer calls know the proper telephone techniques to satisfy customers? Do all employees know the value of taking ownership for customer complaints?

Does your leadership send a clear message of where we’ve been, where we’re going, as well as gather employee input on how best to get there? Is there ongoing communication with all employees during a process of organizational change, or are new organizational structures, processes and goals simply directives from management?

Do supervisors understand their role in developing employees? Do your supervisors, new or experienced, understand relationships and how they influence (positively or negatively) employee performance? Do supervisors set clear expectations (standards, policies, overall direction), provide constant feedback, and recognize accomplishment?

Asking the above questions and taking an objective look at how all facets of the organization serve or don’t adequately serve customers will make a huge difference in the final image portrayed to customers at every level.

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