Customer Experience News & Trends

5 signs your service secretly stinks (and how to fix it)

3. Social media is abuzz

153999235 (1)Ever hear the term “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” It couldn’t be more true than with social media. We know you can’t believe everything that’s printed on the Web, but when customers are talking about an organization in social media — whether it’s positive or negative chatter — there’s usually some validity to what they’re saying.

If they didn’t have a bad experience, they likely know someone who has, and they’re spreading the word via chat rooms (just like they used to do it in coffee shops, bars and the office prior to the Internet). Bad buzz turned into very bad business for United Airways after a disgruntled passenger wrote a song about their poor service. It even turned into big business for the passenger, Dave Carroll, who is now on the speaking circuit as a customer service advocate.

To head off this issue: Start monitoring social media right now, if you aren’t already. Many vendors offer software that allows you to monitor the major social media sites and blogs for mentions of your company and products. For instance, Brian Weber, director of public engagement and e-care at Bright House Networks, who recently spoke at the ICMI Call Center Demo and Conference, and his team quickly reach out to customers who mention Bright House in social networks. That way they can fix issues, make customers happy again and quell negative talk.

4. Supervisors are talking to customers (a lot)

164101648If managers spend more than about 5% of their time solving customers’ problems, it’s a huge sign the overall customer experience is going south. Understandably, some situations are too delicate, complex or confidential for front-line service pros to handle. But if many issues are going up the chain of command, it means front-line people are under-trained or under-empowered.

Those seemingly little issues that can’t be fixed on the first contact, or require a transfer to a colleague or boss, cost companies time and money on the front end and customer loyalty — the biggest loss — on the back end.

To head off this issue: Train. Then train some more. It’ll affect both perils in this situation — ability and authority. First, employees who are trained to know it all (or at least, to know where to find it all) will be equipped to handle nearly any customer question or problem. Second, companies that invest in employees’ knowledge and skills send the message that they value them and their contributions. That morale boost is empowering.

Rather than focus on the number of hours of training, try focusing on employees’ mastery of skills and product knowledge. Brain Webster, VP business development and marketing at Knowledge Factor, believes that every employee is capable of doing everything that’s needed to do an outstanding job. So he and his colleagues in management consider mastery the given and the amount of time training the variable.

5. Employees aren’t present

124644632Whether it’s physically or mentally, if you have employees who’ve checked out, it’s a strong sign service stinks. Absenteeism is both a cause and effect of poor customer service.

If people aren’t there to help, customers will get slower responses to their needs. If a large number of employees aren’t showing up, or if they’re in the office but are apathetic or disengaged from their work, it’s likely they’re burned out. Perhaps it’s the demand or the environment. Either way, the bad attitude will have a bad effect on service.

To head off this issue: It’s not an easy fix, so the best bet is to stay ahead of employee happiness and engagement. On the most basic level, employers need to compensate front-line employees at or above a level comparable to other businesses in your area. From there, many companies have found that rewarding customer service employees for their efforts to build customer satisfaction and loyalty has the same positive effects on performance and morale as do compensation packages for sales reps.

To help front-liners deal healthfully with job demand, make sure they take their daily breaks, schedule vacation time and have outlets — like social time with colleagues, quiet work time for themselves — to relieve stress.

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