About excellent customer service
Henry Friedman, from the global retail consulting and training group – The Friedman Group, had the proper response to the most common training objection in business for excellent customer service. “What if I train them and they leave?”. His response, “What if I don’t train them, and they stay?”
The hospitality and retail industries require separate thinking styles and behaviours. But, many of the principles behind them stay the same. Primarily, the hospitality industry is there to cater to people. Whether it’s accommodation, nourishment, or a combination of the two plus any extra services. The retail sector is a lot more about materials and products. But Friedman’s response to the training objection remains equally valid.
Workers in every facet of each industry affect the customer’s experience, from senior managers to the lowest-salaried employee. Training is often expensive, yet whether it’s fiscal, time or another resource – if done correctly, the benefits will always outweigh the costs involved. Read on to get advice and tips on how best to reap the rewards from training your staff:
Assessing the environment
Naturally, you will see the best results from training programs by targeting the areas that need improvement. If you’re noticing specific complaints coming through, offer the directly involved employees company-paid training courses on said specific area. The aim of the game is to turn your incoming complaints into commendations and praises.
If you’re a key decision maker within a business, or intimately involved in all operations, you may not need complaints to see the inherent customer service issues arising. If you are the key decision maker, open the question up to your employees and see what they say. They work the floor for the longest and interact with the customers the most, can they think of areas of improvement? There’s a multitude of online training courses that will serve to fix loads of issues. Why not try electing someone to take up a course and then teach it back to the rest of the staff.
Training the fresh faces
Training your new recruits through processes of onboarding is also imperative. This obviously stops the development of bad habits. If you’re offering a premium service or supplying a premium product, this will be key to your bottom line. If your staff don’t know the value of their service or products, they surely won’t be able to relay basic sales advice onto a potential customer.
Customer lost, revenue lost. These initial steps have the potential to point out any future leaders within the new ranks, or at least further your ability to spot them. Furthermore, focused training has a trickle-down effect: new staff members will learn a lot from well-trained workers, who are already efficient at providing excellent customer service. Your productive employees will have decent customer service levels engrained into them. Basic social conditioning should mean the new employees will pick up and act out on this, without even realising it. Seasoned employees, outsourced consultants or human resource professionals are all capable of conducting training.
Both the industries we’re dealing with are fighting high turn-over. Developing your employees will play a major part in combatting this and will also contribute to maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction in the long run. Both industries will benefit from grooming outstanding individuals. The importance of progressive employee advancement won’t be lost on your employees. You’ll be able to link good performance, advanced training and promotions.
The investment in developing new supervisors and management from your workforce shows confidence in the team working for you. This career progression will serve to inspire and motivate. These people also know the ins-and-outs of the business and should be in a much better position off the bat than someone new to the brand and operation processes, even if they are more qualified. Tesco’s Philip Clarke went from shelf stacker to CEO, we wonder if the person hiring him knew he’d last as long as he did?
A top tip from Friedman is for management to ‘get into the fray’. A good manager is like a policeman directing heavy traffic at a busy intersection. This is because of the constant pushing, pointing, doing and working from the floor. A manager that listens in and sees how employees react to certain situations is in the prime position to reinforce good behaviours and correct poor ones. This is because they haven’t been caught up in the monotony of office admin or operational paperwork, they will be fighting from the frontline and attempting to do more than just hoping their staff are interacting with customers to the required standard.
Here are 8 top tips for excellent customer service. How closely can you follow these rules?
- Always smile for the customer, both in person and on the phone (yes, even different types of smiles create different tones of voice).
- Be proactive, ask before they can request.
- Never judge a book by its cover, whatever the customer’s appearance they require your full attention.
- Never answer “I don’t know.”, unless you’re following it with a “But, I can find out for you?”.
- Don’t let chatty customers take up your time if others are waiting, be polite and explain the situation. Remain efficient.
- Don’t be afraid to call for backup if a queue forms, the 1 or 2 minutes wasted this may take – will prove useful once you clear the line in half the time and it’s a lot better than floundering about for 5 minutes.
- Make sure the customer fully received what they paid for. At all possible stages, try and exceed this.
- Smile as you say goodbye and verbally encourage another visit.
So, which one’s are you doing, or not? And, which one do you think is the most important? Don't forget to contact us for more information.