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The ABC's of Customer Service

The ABC's of Customer Service

Customer service is an everyday experience. We rate service with words like: Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor. And there are three kinds of people who take these ratings seriously: the business owner (because their lives and reputation depend on it), the customer (because it’s their time and money and perhaps their own customer they represent), and the kind of person you want on your team (because not everybody can provide excellent customer service).

I admit it; I’m a person that notices. I pay attention to service and I take it personally. Fortunately, not all are like me, some are a little more laid back. If every customer expected the kind of service I do, at least 25% of businesses would shut their doors. Why? Because that’s about how many places I have never patronized again due to poor service.

The first thing a business owner or concerned employee should know about customer service is that most of the issue is resolved by identifying the right kind of person! I call this knowledge the ABC’s of Customer Service.

“A” Stands for Awareness of Your Attitude

You can talk until you are blue in the face. You can hire me or another inspirational teacher and it still will not make measurable differences in the quality of customer service your business provides if you hire people without a “Can Do” attitude.

This particular attitude is not about personality as much as it is about character. People with Can Do attitudes have a variety of personalities. Some are upbeat, some sincere, and some careful or cautious. It’s not just “first impressions” that leak from personality; it’s the lasting after-taste that comes from the engine of their personhood – character.

A Can Do attitude has one consistent and essential element: Justice. Justice is the conviction and practice of doing what is right. A person who embraces justice holds steadfast to a sense of personal responsibility. In other words, they make it their business to provide excellent service and to solve problems. This attitude is an extension of their inner convictions.

Question: “How do you identify such people?” The answer is in the “B” of the ABC’s of customer service.

“B” Stands for Behavior is Rooted in Belief

Everybody believes something. Even people who say, “I don’t believe in anything” are making a statement of faith. And what people truly believe and value is what they do. Our actions are simply a reflection of our faith. Take a look at the following questions one might ask a potential employee to learn more about her belief system:

1. How much do you know about our company, it’s history, products, services, and mission? (The answer to this question reveals how important it is to the potential employee whether the nature of the business aligns with his/her own values. If the person is only looking for a job, you may eventually run into a belief problem)

2. Tell us how you go about resolving customer questions, concerns, and complaints? (The answer to this question reflects how much or little the potential employee empathizes with the feelings of others thus revealing the level of belief they have for restorative processes)

3. Do you believe it is possible that our customer care policies will be sufficient to meet the needs of our customers in every situation? Do you think there would ever be a time you would challenge a company policy on behalf of a customer? (The answers to these questions reflect the potential employees range of ability to think independently yet in the best interests of both the customer and the business while regarding themselves the least. In other words, their answers reveal their conviction for doing justly with less regard for personal gain or comfort)

If a person’s belief system does not take seriously the idea: “What I do and how I do it matters,” he or she is disqualified to represent your organization. If they only do what they are told, they do not have the depth to be the kind of person you need. If they buck against you at every turn, you have a belief problem – you’re out of alignment and the best ending is to release the person to do what they have the conviction to do.

“C” Stands for the Competencies You Need to Do Your Job Well

The two most important competencies for customer service is a “Can Do” attitude rooted in a people who exercise Justice, and a Belief System that aligns with the idea of service, value for the company’s products and services, and has a generally restorative outlook toward people and relationships. But these are only foundational competencies.

We would fail if we did not mention the fact that the employees are the company’s core customers. They cannot serve the next circle of customers with excellence if they are not provided the opportunity to attain knowledge-based competencies from leadership. Company leadership is responsible for not only acquiring the right kind of people, but also providing the following:

1. On-going Training. Perpetual training not only improves the ability of employees to meet customer needs, it also re-enforces a serving culture.

2. Empowerment. Empowerment is the process of clearly articulating and categorizing typical customer care issues learned from the past and foreseen in the future.

Articulating is the first part of empowerment because good communication empowers confidence. It educates employees in the “what” to expect when dealing with customer care issues.

Categorizing is the second part of empowerment; this is about establishing boundaries of responsibility and authority. It explains to employees “how” to handle a variety of situations. It explains what they can and cannot do.

Placing customer service issues within categories allows the company to assign authority within each. For example, let’s say all foreseeable customer services issues could be assigned in one of three categories:

Category 1 is those issues the employee can act on independently according to their training.

Category 2 is the issues that seem to present a bit of grey within the training and policies. The employee needs to make a decision and then inform their supervisor of the action taken in order to provide feedback and further organizational learning and clarification. This allows customer service to be first and internal communication and learning second.

Category 3 is the issues that must be referred to a supervisor or executive leadership.

This article on customer care is an introduction to customer service theory and application. If you are interested in more information about training or coaching opportunities, please contact us.

by Jim Piper, Jr.

by Jim Piper, Jr.