Excellent customer service has become something of a Holy Grail in today’s business operations. No one can afford to pay the cost of customer acquisition only to lose those customers based on dissatisfaction with service.
The response on the part of some organizations has been to increase the amount of training for customer service representatives. As important as that may be, it begs the question of whether someone can really be trained to provide excellent customer service.
Although that may appear to be one of those nature vs. nurture questions, I think the answer is easy — no, I don’t think training alone can create a top-notch customer service person.
So how do you fill your customer service positions with the right people? We think it takes a special type of person to excel in customer service, and here are some of the qualities and skills we look for when we recruit:
- Someone who craves human interaction
- Friendly, yet still professional
- Good in all forms of communication, whether telephone, online or in person
- A good listener who can also understand and interpret what the customer means
- A problem solver
- Thorough and detail oriented
- Patient and empathetic
There are a lot of moving parts to excellent customer service, so let’s discuss the most important.
First, we consider our customer service folks the hub of our operational wheel – touching all parts of our company. They need to understand who we are as a company, what a professional employer organization (PEO) does, the value we provide, what our departments do, and how they work together. That’s a lot to learn, and probably one of our biggest training challenges.
Next, I’ve read articles that discuss which comes first – good employee relations or good customer relations. I don’t think you can separate one from the other. If your business takes care of its employee “family,” it will take care of your customers.
Customers can’t always evaluate the quality of your operations, but they can certainly evaluate how they are treated by your staff.
We also hear a lot about how technology is changing customer service, and most of us have personal horror stories about being put into endless telephone queues, only to finally talk to a rep who either doesn’t have the knowledge or authority to solve our problem.
But that needn’t be the case. Customers of all ages are gravitating toward use of more technology tools, and businesses in every industry need to adapt accordingly. In our industry, self-help portals and platforms are important to customers who want easy access to resources. However, these tools must be supported by live, well-trained staff who can provide the personal touch that some customers still want and need.
One final note is the importance of involving customer service employees as early as possible in the sales process. They provide the continuity and ongoing relationships that allow you to retain customers and engender the type of loyalty that results in referrals to your business. And I can’t think of a better way to measure customer satisfaction.
Haley Crum Blanton joined FrankCrum as a customer care representative while earning a bachelor’s degree in Business Management at Eckerd College. She was later named vice president, client operations and business affairs, a position she holds in addition to president of FrankCrum Staffing. A certified staffing professional, she is working toward a law degree at Stetson University College of Law. She is a member of the National Association of Professional Women.