Everybody loves good service. It makes us feel appreciated when patronizing a company that meets our service expectations.
Businesses understand the need to satisfy their customers and take great strides to provide helpful, friendly service.
However, not only is implementing structured customer service practices smart business, it has the potential to reduce risk management issues.
By putting the following 9 steps into action, it’s possible to improve customer service and reduce costly mistakes and accidents. Customer service practices can be woven into policy and procedures so that good customer service is achieved when following company policy.
Step 1. Identify areas of service that need improvement as well as potential risk. Implement policies that address these issues. Ask for the input of management and staff to create an atmosphere of teamwork.
Step 2. Create a policy and procedure manual that is easily read and understood. To encourage employee interest, be sure to explain how the procedures will benefit employees. Distribute the manuals to each employee or department manager. Ensure all management is committed to the education of their department.
Step 3. Hold staff meetings to discuss the new policies and customer service expectations. Make the meetings a positive experience and reinforce the benefits of implementing the policies. This may be as simple as giving certificates of recognition or as valuable as a raise (an idea to increase the perceived value of certificates of recognition is to allow employees to accumulate and trade them for gift certificates).
Step 4. Create a culture in which employees and staff show the same helpful respect to each other as they do customers (teach that we are all each other’s customers). Empower staff to nominate each other for certificates of recognition. Invite customers to do the same.
Step 5. Ensure that each employee has read and understands the policy manual. Encourage its importance by having each employee take a written test and go over the results to fill in any gaps in understanding. Have the employee sign it and keep the results in the personnel file.
Step 6. Continually educate staff on the importance of each department and teamwork. Each month, choose one staff member to learn something new about another department and give a short inservice to the rest of the team (for example, have a payroll clerk take a couple hours to learn and share something about the shipping department). If employees have some understanding of the business processes, it will help staff identify ways they can indirectly help their co-workers in other departments.
Step 7. As time passes, continue to reinforce policies and good customer service practices. Look for ways to continue to involve staff (for example, form teams to create a new system, implement a new idea, solve a dilemma, etc.).
Step 8. Replace employees, according to termination guidelines, who continue to refuse to follow procedures. This will show your existing staff you are serious about the policies and you will help your staff by hiring employees that want to be part of the team.
Step 9. When hiring new employees, stress the value placed on teamwork and following procedures. Start during the interview process and make it a positive experience. Look for someone who can fill the position and is eager to learn. It’s easier to train someone that it is to change someone.
A few of the benefits of implementing these steps are:
Better Service: Employees who are knowledgeable about their responsibilities and follow company procedure are better equipped to serve customers and each other (thus improving the bottom line).
Loyalty: Employees who are empowered to teach and help implement procedures feel that their efforts are worthwhile and that they are part of the team (this encourages loyalty, improves job satisfaction and less employee turnover).
Financial Rewards: Employees who understand that by following procedures, decreasing risk, and improving customer service, financial goals will be met and have a positive impact on their payroll and benefits.
The implementation of simple procedures can have a major impact on customer service, improve the workplace culture, and decrease mistakes and accidents. By fostering a knowledgeable team atmosphere, employee accountability and awareness will improve.
Keep the procedures simple and easy to follow so they can be remembered. Don’t overload employees. Think of policies and procedures as guidelines. Hire someone to review your current policies and procedures and write a fresh manual that will speak to your employees and motivate them to follow procedures.
Company rules should be included and include employment/labor law, minimum wage laws and hours, State and Federal guidelines, safety issues, harassment issues, privacy issues and industry specific regulations. Purchase and post the mandatory employment posters and consult an attorney when in doubt.