Profiles International - Victoria    eNewsletter   April 2011

The How and Why Behind Great Customer Service
Don't take your eye off the ball

Good news! Consumer spending appears to have been up in March. This is just one more positive sign on the long road to economic recovery.

But with that good news comes a challenge: People have been battered, bruised, and shell-shocked by the downturn for so long, that it's difficult to tell how their long-term attitudes towards spending may have been affected.

Now more than ever, businesses need to maintain their focus on their customers. They spent more in March, but what about the next month? The next quarter? Or through the end of your fiscal year?

Companies would like to breathe a sigh of relief, raise prices, and start to recoup some of the losses they've sustained and perhaps even grow a little. That's not unreasonable.

But first you have to know who's buying from you and why. Is it for convenience? Price? Brand loyalty? Great customer service? If your clients suddenly feel more financial confidence and choose to spend more, will they spend it with you, or take their business elsewhere?

In trying to conjure up a relevant metaphor for tracking customer attitudes, my first thought is that of a shell game – not for the aspects of a scam or deceit, but for the level of concentration it takes to follow that ball with extreme focus and care. That's how closely businesses should be monitoring their clients. Follow their attitudes and actions closely and you're sure to win; but lose sight at your own peril.

Here's something that everyone can do now for little cost and minimal effort, but with a potentially huge payoff: Talk to your employees about your customers. Remind them of the importance of your buyers and what you expect of your staff. And make sure they keep their eyes on the ball.

This month's newsletter from Profiles features customer loyalty. I invite you to read more about keeping clients satisfied and coming back for more from your business. As always, I wish you continued success!
                                                                Bud Haney, President  Profiles International
WIIFM - Leaders, Show your employees 'What's in it for them'   

When you strip away all of the niceties, all the layers of "proper" behaviour that define the way we act and interact with other, all the social norms and so on, self-interest tends to drive most of what we do. 

A company's vision is most important to the company. If you want to motivate your staff to the vision you are aiming to achieve, you need to outline how that vision will help them achieve their own personal vision. 

For example, saying to your employees; "We want to be the industry leader by 2015!" 

Instead, try; "We want to be the industry leader by 2015, and along the way you could become the expert in our strategic sales team!" 

The employee will be motivated by what they get from that. 

If you want your vision to motivate people, you have to ensure you present your goals through the lens of their own personal self-interest. 

To do this, get to know them and their goals. Take a genuine interest in them and find out where they see themselves in 5 years. If they feel like you are involved in what they want, they will in turn be involved in contributing to this goal and the organizations overall vision. 

"The most dangerous leadership myth asserts that people either have charismatic qualities or not. That's nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born." Warren Bennis, Leadership scholar. 
                           

 
Six Keys to Great Customer Experiences

In both good times and bad the lifetime value of one customer can be exponentially greater than the value of a series of single transactions from one-time customers. In this era of social networking, it only takes one Tweet or Facebook status update to seriously damage a company's reputation.

One bad customer experience can cost you that customer for life. Hospitality, travel, retail, healthcare, and financial services are especially prone to losing customers who have had negative experiences. Think about these situations from the perspective of a customer: It doesn't take much for a customer to decide that you and your company aren't worth his time, effort, or money.
 
Profiles International found that assessing core personality traits and a standardised set of skill measures provides clear indicators of probable success in a customer-facing role. In 1987, Profiles developed the Customer Service Knowledge Scale for the largest cable television provider in the US in order to successfully identify ideal job candidates for call centres, customer service departments, help desks, and technical services. This research has been continually refined over the last two decades with thousands of clients and across hundreds of industries. We've identified six core behaviours of your customer-facing employees that make the biggest difference for your business.

They are:
1. Trust
2. Tact
3. Empathy
4. Conformity
5. Focus
6. Flexibility
  1. Trust. Trusting individuals tend to believe that the motives of others are honourable.

    It's easy for your people to become defensive when they're presented with problems, especially when it seems that the person presenting the problem has a hidden agenda. For example, a hotel employee might be cynical about a guest who calls to complain about his room and demands an upgrade to an executive suite. Is this a real problem? Is this a high-maintenance guest who feels entitled only to the best? Or is this person a freeloader? This cynicism is a normal reaction, but a particularly untrusting employee will focus on the validity of the problem rather than a solution that is amenable to all parties involved.

    • People with low levels of trust are often described as wary, vigilant, or skeptical.

    • Those with high levels of trust are often described as unquestioning, uncritical, or optimistic.

    The optimal degree of trustworthiness depends on your business, but naiveté is never optimal. For example, an ATO agent will probably be less trusting than the front desk clerk of a Ritz-Carlton hotel. But you jeopardise your chance to build long-term, loyal customers if you assume from the outset that their motives are not honourable.

  2. Tact. How you say something to a customer can be just as important as what you say.

    Your customers don't know what they don't know, and they may make incorrect assumptions about what they need or how something works. They also don't want to feel stupid and will likely be offended if your customer-facing employees make a big deal about their incorrect assumptions. This is common in technology and healthcare fields that may require specialised technical knowledge.

    • Tactful people tend to state their positions without offending others and are often described as discreet, diplomatic, or restrained.

    • Less tactful people are often described as direct, obvious, or forthright

    The bottom line is that how you say something to a customer can be just as important as what you say, especially in an emotionally charged situation.

  3. Empathy. Customers need to feel that someone cares about their experience.

    Customers like to feel loved, and they get turned off very quickly when they sense that you don't care about the pain they're feeling. Even if you can't help them because the situation is beyond your control, acknowledge that you understand both the situation and their frustration.

    • People with high levels of empathy tend to understand others' feelings and are often described as understanding, compassionate, or sensitive.

    • People with low levels of empathy are often described as detached, indifferent, or distant.

    A good example is a delayed flight caused by inclement weather. Even though the airline is not technically at fault, travellers appreciate it when the airline employees demonstrate that they care and when they take reasonable measures to offer guidance or rebook the flight. On the other hand, if travellers feel that no one from the airline cares about the predicament, they will be even more upset and the bad memories will linger even longer.

    Customers assume ignorance or indifference from silent or uninformed airline attendants. In these situations, frequent, honest communication is important to displaying empathy.

  4. Conformity. The optimal degree of conformity for your customer-facing people really depends on your business.

    The key is understanding your customers' objectives and expectations, and then aligning your people with your customers. The Ritz-Carlton is famous for empowering its frontline people to make good decisions that allow them to deliver exceptional experiences for customers. This is probably a good thing given their ultra-luxury market segment.

    • People with high levels of conformity have a strong tendency to comply with the rules and with those in authority. They are often described as traditional, compliant, or conventional.

    • People with low levels of conformity are often described as inventive, free-spirited, or independent.

    Some positions also require high conformity due to legal, regulatory, and safety requirements. In this case, it is best to balance the need to conform with high empathy and tact, since it is unlikely that the service provider will be able to bend the rules. Your customer-facing people should be aware of the stress this places on the customer, and they should let the customer know that they feel his or her pain.

  5. Focus. Customer service is about relentless focus.

    Obviously, no customer wants the person serving her to be distracted or preoccupied. Ever go to the local mall and try to get help from a teenager focussed more on texting her friends than helping you find what you're looking for?

    On the other hand, being too focussed can be a bad thing. Have you ever asked an innocent question out of curiosity and then found yourself stuck for an eternity while a customer support person hunts endlessly for an answer? This person is likely so focussed on getting the answer that he doesn't realise that you really don't care that much about it and would rather not wait for an answer to an nonessential question. Be sure your people understand the degree of focus required for the job.

    • Highly focussed people tend to stay on task regardless of distractions, and they are often described as attentive, purposeful, or efficient.

    • People with little ability to focus are often described as distractible, preoccupied, or inefficient. They may have a hard time working in an environment with many distractions such as an open call centre.

  6. Flexibility. Companies that provide the best service think in terms of the customer, and this requires employee willingness and flexibility.

    Highly flexible people can be creative problem solvers, but they risk becoming bored if the problems they are trying to solve are routine or repetitious. They may also try to overcomplicate simple issues just so they can add variety to their assignments.

    On the other hand, it's easy to assume that your customer-facing employees should be flexible in order to accommodate customer needs, but this isn't always the case. Less-flexible people often prefer routine or repetitious tasks that change little over time -- new methods or routines can overwhelm them. They are often better suited for customer interactions that involve routine tasks with clearly defined rules and procedures.

    • Less flexible people are often described as uncompromising, rigid, or cautious.

    • Highly flexible people tend to explore new approaches to doing things, and they are often described as adaptable, accepting, and open-minded.

    The key is to match the core behaviours of the individual to the actual job that he will perform. Skills can be learned by employees who are willing to put forth the effort, but our personalities and core behaviours are difficult to change. That's why we encourage our clients to carefully consider how well an employee's core behaviours fit with the actual job he or she is hired to do.

    Even if the employee has the right skills and experience, his odds of being successful and remaining on the job are low if his core behaviours and tendencies do not line up with those needed for success in that particular role. This is especially true for customer-facing roles in which your frontline employees act as extensions of your brand and heavily influence the customer experience.
      
 

Feature Product

Customer Service Perspective

The Customer Service Perspective (CSP) gives you an objective, inside look at the behaviours and motives of customer service job candidates to help you make better hiring, promotion, and organisational decisions. Giving this information to managers helps them to be more effective and get the very most from their people.

"Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the client or customer gets out of it". - PETER DRUCKER

IN THIS ISSUE

The How and Why Behind Great Customer Service


WIIFM - Leaders, Show your employees 'What's in it for them'

 
Six Keys to Great Customer Experiences



Feature Product








WHAT'S ON AT PROFILES

Partner Training:
Training scheduled for 27th April.

Seminar:
There is no seminar scheduled for April.














































































































































































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