If you look at companies who consistently provide excellent customer service, you almost always find that those companies create a culture that supports excellence in customer service. Makes sense, right? They don’t just train their employees in customer service skills. Their policies, culture, collaboration, work environment, schedules...it’s all centered around meeting the needs of the customer.
What employees say about customer service
Recently, The Maritz® Poll, which surveyed nearly 2,900 employees across several industries, found that, while workers generally enjoy interacting with customers, they often feel their hands are tied by corporate policies that focus on bottom-line needs rather than those of the customers they are called to serve. Furthermore, few employees feel they are recognized for providing great service to customers.
“As customer service indices have shown continuous declines across industries over the past several years, companies are struggling to recapture a flailing customer base, but seem at a loss to come up with a solution,” said Rick Garlick, senior director of consulting for the Hospitality Research Group at Maritz Research. “Yet, our survey respondents make the solution quite clear: empower employees to help customers and both will view the company in a more positive light. Explaining a situation to more than two employees generally frustrates customers to the point they want to take their business elsewhere.”
The Maritz survey also found that employee satisfaction has declined from last year’s already low ratings. In the current survey, only 20 percent of employees said they feel providing excellent customer service is their company’s top priority, down from 29 percent in 2011; and just 14 percent believe their workgroup has a clear understanding of customers’ needs, down from 20 percent last year.
A focus on excellent customer service is a win-win: the customer becomes a loyal fan and the employee feels good about doing his job. What corporate policies are standing in the way of great customer service?
You know how frustrating it is if you've ever been on the receiving end of this line: “Sorry, that’s against company policy” or “I just can’t do that.” Maybe it’s something small, but the employee isn’t allowed to make the call and has to go by the book, even if it means losing the customer. This is a major roadblock to great customer service, and it makes the employee feel powerless.
Leadership adheres to a management style based on command/control rather than servant leadership, which bring out the best in employees through coaching, mentoring, encouraging self-expression and building a sense of community and joint ownership (Servant Leadership is a popular leadership model developed by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970). Think of it as coaching versus bossing. Command/control leadership style exists in a paternalistic structure and does not empower employees to best serve the customer.
Stuck with the time clock
The measure of success in companies having issues with customer service is governed by the adherence to or focus on the traditional workweek ruled by a time-clock. We love some of the new ways companies, like Amazon, are providing easy, round-the-clock help through online chat, email, and social media.
Employees are siloed in their own departments, unsure what is going on in other areas of the organization. This tends to be an “every man/department for himself” type of work environment. When workers are oriented organizationally, they are free to work across boundaries, and are encouraged to share and develop ideas outside of departmental structures. Everyone is working toward a clear, common outcome
Putting in hours and moving “up”
Motivation is driven by being present, putting in hours, looking like a hard worker, and climbing the ladder. Customer happiness is in peril when corporate policies reward presenteeism, rather than achieving outcomes and focusing on results.
Are your written mission statements and company values at odds with your day to day corporate policies and culture? Are you creating a working environment that focuses on customer service and employee satisfaction? Chances are, if you ask your employees you might be surprised at the answer.