GREAT CUSTOMER CONTACTS ARE TRAINED, NOT BORN

Companies that want to be better at customer service will often put a great deal of effort into trying to hire the “right” people. “If we just find the right people, everything will fall into place,” they believe.

It’s true that there are a lot of people out there who view helping others as a calling. And there are people who may not be quite as dedicated, but who genuinely enjoy seeing customers walk away with a smile and a promise to return. But if you simply place even the most well-meaning people into your customer-service settings, you probably won’t get the results you want.

For outstanding customer service to take place, you also need an infrastructure that supports it and training that instills your vision of service. You can’t assume that new employees will automatically adopt your culture and respond the way you did.

Business consultant Richard Whiteley points to a Massachusetts bank that teaches its employees about great service by sending them to companies outside the financial world that are known for turning customers into evangelists. He tells of a successful customer service rep whose performance earned him a trip to California to study the Smith & Hawken garden supply company’s approach to customer service.

He came back and told his bosses that every Smith & Hawken CSR was expected to have used every piece of equipment the company sells. That way, when they’re talking to the avid gardeners who make up their customer base, they can share information at a more personal level. When they’re enthusiastic about a new weeding implement, customers can’t wait to buy and use it.

What could your customer-service team learn by studying great companies outside your industry?

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