In my last blog, we talked about the importance of occasionally checking an ego or sacrificing a bit of self-pride in order to keep customer relations running smoothly and effectively. While our egos are designed to give us self-confidence and to protect us from attack, they can also get in the way of successful communication. Often, in customer service, compromise is the name of the game. And that means having your team acquiesce and concede to clients who are impatient, inconsiderate, or just plain incorrect.
Customers tend to complain louder and longer to those on the front line of customer service. It often takes a long time for a complaint to work its way up the chain of command and reach a manager, boss, or company owner. Those at the top of the work pyramid might never know the daily misery of listening to a grouchy client on the phone, or the humbling experience of yielding to an angry customer.
This also means that managers and team leaders need to find ways to thank and encourage employees who are willing to take one for the team.
- Encourage Telling. Not tattling, really, but do ask your front line employees to make you very aware of who, in your customer base, is unhappy. Make it clear that alerting you of stressful relationships is safe—that the employee’s job or reputation with you is not in jeopardy because a problem was reported. Rather, you need to know the status of a relationship with a customer so you can attend to that customer—and so you can provide your employee with tools and resources to resolve the issue. Be sure your employees know you stand behind them, and that they are valuable.
- Consider Transfers. If it is possible to move a disgruntled customer to another employee’s work load without upsetting either, do so. If the second employee is not overly enthusiastic about the move, remind him or her that the first employee may one day need to return the favor. Not only might the client relate better to a new representative, but the first one will feel supported and valued. This will pay off in less stress and better productivity on the part of that employee.
- Congratulate Success. When a front-line service representative deals with a difficult situation and resolves it satisfactorily, thank them. When the resolution is exemplary or particularly important, share the story with others. Make a good example of the successful communicator. Not only will he/she be affirmed by your accolades, but other employees will have a model behavior to imitate.
- Watch Patterns. If multiple clients are complaining about the same issue, stop hoping your employees will pacify them, and resolve the issue instead. If the same customer is hitting your representative with multiple complaints, get some extra attention and relationship building going with that client. And re-visit #2—consider a transfer.
- Supply Training. A staff well-trained in customer care, anger management, and conflict resolution will improve customer-provider communications. But that’s next week’s blog.
Challenge: How am I caring for employees on the front line of fire? What can I do to increase my care of those employees?