Your organization’s success depends your ability to tune in to your clients, evaluate points-of-contact, and make sure everyone in the organization is capable of and committed to meeting client expectations:
- Superior service and reliability,
- A wide range of high-quality products and services,
- Cutting edge technology,
- A knowledgeable, professional staff,
- Choice, flexibility and value.
These ten strategies will equip your front line to meet expectations and maximize your payoff from every interaction.
1. Make service part of every contact. In any environment, service is the big differentiator. Whether you are a for-profit corporation, a small business or a not-for-profit working to serve your community there may be similarities to other organizations but service is what gives your organization a distinct “persona” and sets the tone for relationships. If your front line is well-informed, friendly, fast and flexible clients will quickly get the message that you truly appreciate your partnership. Customers who receive superior service are likely to reward you with confidence and loyalty.
2. Know the terrain! When it comes to competition, there’s no such thing as too much information. Make sure every point-of-contact employee has complete and accurate details about others in your field. What are they offering? What promotional strategies are they using? What’s their public image? And how do you stack up? Provide comparative product/service resources for your team to use in client conversations, and update them regularly. Urge all staff to report customer comments, both pro and con, as well as any misconceptions about your services. And above all, help your team understand the value of your products and services! Knowledge is power!
3. Cultivate “Coaches”. Line supervisors keep your team focused, organized and productive. No one knows your frontline people better or is closer to the action. Supervisors will do their jobs more effectively – and contribute more to the bottom line – if they understand how to develop, motivate and support their team. So turn them into skilled and active coaches, capable and committed to helping each individual rep perform to their fullest potential. Be sure your supervisors are using their time effectively and spending time on tasks that satisfy your clients. Supervisors make the difference if they spend less time preparing reports and more time building a frontline that’s informed, energized and productive.
4. Sharpen everyone’s skills through training. To perform at their best and position your products and services effectively point-of-contact personnel need ongoing skill and product training. Structured training experiences help to develop strategic skills that increase success, confidence and professionalism. It can turn basic knowledge into valuable consultative expertise. Continuous training allows you to adjust and expand skills to suit your organization’s needs and circumstances and it equips staff to cope with change and handle obstacles effectively. Training gives your staff or your volunteers the tools to satisfy customers and sustain your business!
5. Play your strongest hand. Urge your team to let customers know what you have something that the competition can’t deliver! THEM! Products are many, and customers can easily become confused and overwhelmed by the wide range of competing options and offers. Exploit advantages like your strong staff as a differentiator. Every customer contact should emphasize your competitive strengths. Remember, every point-of-contact contact is an opportunity to impress and educate your customer.
6. Master multicultural markets. The growing size and influence of multicultural markets offers you a valuable opportunity to expand your customer base with specialized products and promotional efforts. A front line team trained specifically to respond to unique ethnic market segments will support and sustain your customer base. Bilingual team members, ideally including native speakers, should be an integral part of every organization’s service capability. This will enable you to deliver quality service that is “culturally sensitive”. Servicing ethnic markets with professionalism, respect and relevant products connects you to a valuable source of loyal new subscribers.
7. Harness the energy of “we.” Say goodbye to rigid departmental structures and boundaries that can foster internal conflict and miscommunication. Bring “us and them” together as a team focused on collectively delivering outstanding service to the client. Encourage teamwork that is cross-functional and linked to a single, universally supported mission. Clarifying how each department in your organization — from the front line to the back office — contributes to your sales goals and sustains success. A unified and committed team can compete in even the most cutthroat marketplace.
8. Do it right the first time. There’s a critical link between client satisfaction and first-contact resolution. We’ve all been there – calling, calling and calling again to resolve a problem – with an organization that just can’t get it right. Repeat calls result in disgruntled clients and tie up the phones with non-productive contacts. Look at how you get things down and explore ways to prevent your front line from alienating and exasperating clients. Examine problem-solving procedures to streamline response time, shorten the paper trail and follow up on outcomes. Dazzle your customers with prompt and efficient service and their loyalty will dazzle you.
9. Communicate constantly. Don’t rely on word-of-mouth to get important messages out to your staff. Consistency, accuracy and credibility are enhanced when you communicate directly, whether it’s via memo, e-mail or staff meetings. Even if the news is not positive, a direct approach is more likely to generate cooperation and results. And don’t forget that meaningful communication works in two directions. When you send out a message, listen carefully to the responses from your team and take them seriously. Better yet, actively solicit and acknowledge feedback and encourage staff to share ideas, insights and issues with you. Keep an open mind and, to the extent possible, an open door. Keeping in touch with what your staff knows and feels, can reveal valuable information about customers and how they’re being treated.
10.Turn back turnover. Staff turnover costs time and money. Consider ways to retain your most valuable resource, your staff (whether it is paid or volunteer) with initiatives that inspire top performers and encourage everyone to aim higher. Be creative! Monetary rewards and prize-filled incentives work, but their results can be short-lived. Supplement them with something more meaningful, if less tangible, to entice talent to stick around. Invent new career paths by developing key reps as specialists, peer coaches/mentors, project coordinators and so on. Set up teams to accomplish special long-term projects you don’t have time to do yourself and place valued employees in team leadership roles. If employees are invested in and proud of their work, they are less likely to move on and more likely to support your mission with enthusiasm.