Wednesday, 29 August 2012

8 Training Tips to Improve Your Customer Service

Every business today needs to stand by their customer service and the actions of their frontline staff. Getting this right however is about more than polite telephone manner, but is about creating a company-wide culture that emphasises the importance of building trusting and loyal relationships with customers.

Delivering outstanding customer service means creating memorable and extraordinary experiences for customers. It goes beyond having a friendly telephone call – customer service should be woven into your entire business and emphasized with every employee. There are two fundamental factors in achieving this, first is selecting the right employees and second is training them so that they possess the skills and expertise to leave customers happy after every interaction.

Training that encompasses skills provision, role play and post programme support can be highly beneficial to employees, enabling them to transfer what they have learnt in a meaningful and effective way. Training programmes such an NVQ qualification for employees are a huge benefit for employees and the company. The NVQ confirms a person’s competence in a certain field and therefore demonstrates confidence and self-assurance in performing crucial work, increasing their value as an employee and improving their career opportunities. Find out more about NVQs here.

But if you are going to achieve a first class customer service culture, what can you do in terms of training and development?

1. Recruit the right candidates – Recruitment is about finding people with the attributes that cannot be taught; motivation, attitude and personality. The right people make training much easier.

2. Educate new starters quickly – Every new employee should understand the service objectives and culture from the outset, helping them to appreciate and work towards the wider company goals.

3. Create internal training procedures – Your existing employees are a valuable training asset and can share their experiences and skills with the entire workforce. Subsequently, regular internal workshops and the structure in place for employees to put into practice what they have learnt should be encouraged.

4. Do not script – With wholesale recruitment (sometimes present in contact centres) it can be tempting to give new employees a script to handle customer interactions. This does little to enhance customer service and rarely motivates staff. Training instead gives them the freedom to be human and create positive interactions, whilst following guiding principles. (Read more about scripting - Frontline Service Employees Building Rapport – To script or not to script?).

5. Effective monitoring – Just because your employees have completed induction training does not mean their development journey has ended. You should be taking the time to interview them, monitoring their progress with the initial training and finding out what their next steps might be.

6. Giving Best Practices – By ensuring your employees understand the best practices of their job role you are setting the standard. This is particularly important in a data input situation where data entered incorrectly can be disastrous to effective usage and insight.

7. Don’t forget the management – Your customer service culture must permeate every facet of your business. The management may be busy but if they choose not to undertake the training, they are limiting their effectiveness in a management role and are also setting a poor example to rest of the workforce.

8. Train staff as they are promoted – When contact personnel are promoted to team leaders and then managers it is important to understand that each job role requires a different skill set. As a result it should be procedure that anyone who is promoted is trained effectively for their new role.

Development and training, taken seriously, is evidence that you care for your employees and their future. People care to the extent that they are cared for and have a yearning to grow, to develop, to understand and be all that they can be.  If you develop your carefully selected candidates properly, their desire for career development becomes evident. Do this at every stage of their professional career and you are one step closer to creating a customer service culture that is understood at every level at the business and by every employee – leading to outstanding customer experiences.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Getting the Most from Loyalty Scheme Data

As the economic climate drives customers to hunt better and better deals, loyalty schemes have become an increasingly popular way to gain discounts and special offers. But while loyalty card schemes offer a wealth of data about customers, using this data to its greatest potential remains a challenge for many companies, as does building true loyalty and brand commitment.

 These challenges have been highlighted in recent research pieces. A Forrester report found that 40% of chief marketing officers are disappointed with the “erratic” performance of their brand loyalty schemes. Similarly, a report conducted by The Logic Group and Ipsos MORI argued that while over two thirds (68%) of consumers are members of supermarket loyalty schemes, less than half (47%) actually feel loyal to their supermarket.

Successful Loyalty Schemes
That is not to say that loyalty schemes are wholly unsuccessful, many companies aspire to replicate the two most dominant schemes today; Tesco’s Clubcard and the Nectar points system. These stand out not only because of their size and reach but because they have permanently influenced the way customers behave and built long standing brand/customer relationships. Achieving a scheme as popular as either of these is unrealistic for most businesses, but through intelligent use of data, it is possible to run a loyalty scheme that drives significant revenue and profits.

What should a loyalty scheme do?
Ultimately a loyalty scheme must offer strong financial rewards and a clear value exchange for the customer. It must also differentiate itself from the myriad schemes out there and ideally provide customers with targeted offers relevant to their behaviour and interests. Naturally the ways you manage your data are key to achieving this.

Research from LinkShare states that 41% of customers have purchased something online that they would never have bought directly because of a voucher or special offer, showing the value of communicating the right deal, at the right time. Such results can be accomplished through effective data management, which can also help to improve customer retention, increase customer engagement and brand commitment through relevant communication. (Read more about The Value of Data Management).

What it shouldn’t do?
Loyalty schemes are not an excuse to bombard customers with offers and are not an extension of your mailing database. Customers join schemes because they want to be rewarded for their purchases and repeat custom, not because they are interested in every sale or offer you are running. As such, a different approach to communication is required, motivating loyal customers to purchase more regularly by clearly stating the rewards they can expect as they collects points, interspersed with offers directly relevant to their data profile.
Intelligently using loyalty data
A loyalty scheme has the potential to gain detailed information about your customers and can help you to engage, build trust and loyalty. This is only possible however through effective data management and responsible, intelligent use of data.

In order to get the best out of your loyalty scheme it is important to make sure your data is kept up-to-date and relevant, as this can help gain your company valuable customer insight. Insight that is crucial for understanding which customers to target, when to target them, what rewards are relevant, as well as their behaviour patterns and interests. Do this effectively and you will see an increase of customer loyalty through building a successful loyalty scheme.

If you are interested in the role data has to play in understanding your customers, why not take a look at our Why Data Management is Vital to Customer Insight blog?

Friday, 17 August 2012

How Volunteer Games Makers Revealed the True Meaning of Customer Service

Amidst the accolades being given to the athletes at the recent Olympics it is fair to say that the volunteer Games Makers deserve just as much recognition. Before the Games started many people did not realise how pivotal these volunteers would be to the overall success of the event. But with their enthusiasm, commitment and outstanding service they not only pulled off what has been considered a major accomplishment for the nation, but gave visitors and competitors alike a world class customer experience.

Lessons can certainly be gained from the success of the Games Makers. Just as the athletes trained to ensure peak performance, the volunteers underwent training and development programmes. These programmes gave them the tools of communication, empathy and problem solving so key to achieving great customer service.

But while the technical abilities of the volunteers to solve customer issues were demonstrably important, the culture of enthusiasm and motivation created by the organisers also played a vital role. This culture was at the heart of everything the volunteers did, and it clearly shone through in their dealings with members of the public.

So what lessons can be learned for businesses?

If the volunteer Games Maker programme has taught us anything it is that making people feel part of something special is crucial in achieving a first class service culture. When staff have a sense of pride and are enthusiastic about their role, it will be evident during their engagements with customer, leading to fantastic service.

It also shows us that putting customers at the heart of everything and radiating a positive attitude around the working environment are both fundamental in motivating employees and injecting enthusiasm into the way they deliver customer services and go that extra mile. Such a customer centric approach transcends industries, sectors, products and services; it is relevant for all businesses.

The Games Makers were aptly named; for many they made the Games. They showed the rest of the world that Great Britain can deliver a first class customer service culture and that we have the people, skills and motivation to do it. The next step is for businesses to take up the torch, set up effective training programmes and create company cultures that put customers at the core of every activity, motivating staff to provide outstanding customer service in every interaction.