Customer Service: The [Hidden] Face of The Company

 This article first appeared on Globe myBusiness. Visit their page or Subscribe to their newsletter for more business and leadership resources.

There seems to be a disparaging fact about customer service and how much its value is to a company. Go to either LinkedIn and Kalibrr and look up ads on customer service representatives. A common theme one would notice is the entry-level pay grade. Scrutinize the ad a little more and another concerning fact surfaces. The requirements of landing the job isn’t strenuous or demanding enough. It’s as if they’ll take anyone who’d apply for the job.

Customer service is the face of the company. Aside from the CEO who appears in interviews every now and then, customer service representatives are practically the face of every company. Why is it that they don’t get the treatment they deserve? That companies are, almost all the time, far willing to outsource them to someone else?

The thing with customer service is, the effects of a customer receiving a poor one doesn’t surface until it’s very late to fix it. A customer who had a bad experience from a firm won’t necessarily generate that much buzz in the very beginning. It’s when a couple more of these customers continuously get the same bad service that it starts to get some traction.

Not everyone is going to start a blog when they get crappy service. But there will always be that one who is willing to do so. And it’s when that blog entry comes creeping up to the top of Google search results that the company realizes it’s in trouble.

How do we prevent this from happening in the first place? The answer lies in the very beginning: hiring. Hire only outstanding people to man your customer service department. To get this right, the company’s culture must be right. At Zappos, they’ve decided to build their brand to be about the very best customer service and the very best customer experience.

They go on to say, “We believe that customer service shouldn’t be just a department, it should be the entire company.”

Every department in the company should be in agreement to one goal, one mission, before hiring for customer service people. It would be of no use to have an exhaustive hiring process if it’s solely for a single department. The reason for this is everyone in the company should have the same mindset—properly aligned with the company’s vision.

One thing that branches out from customer service is customer experience. Every customer feedback should be given utmost importance. It should be taken into consideration in vying for new product features or improvements. A bunch of customers asking repeatedly where their orders are basically means you’re not sending enough notifications. This is where having everyone understand and agree to the mission comes into play.

Source: State Farm

Customer service, as a department, won’t be able to solve every customer concern out there. They will need help from almost every department in the company. They need product managers to agree on making sure notifications are being sent to customers. They need marketing to agree to lessen email blasts per week. They need the CEO to agree on avoiding over-promising to customers on TV.

This is usually why customer service is seen as an enemy within the company. Run right, they will seem to be very needy and calling people out every now and then. But this is the customer service department you should want—a very proactive one that won’t budge until the customer is promised a better experience.

In Malcom Gladwell’s book, Outliers, he examined Korean Air plane crashes. The problem was not the lack of feedback but the quality of communication between the pilot and the first officer. This can be true in getting feedback from customers. Companies will have to go the extra mile to better understand their customers.

The best tool for this job is the Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey. NPS gauges the loyalty and fondness of a firm’s customer relationships. Send NPS surveys to customers regularly to get firsthand feedback from them. Pair this with questions specific to parts in the customer journey (i.e. “Were you satisfied with the speed of delivery? Which part of our service did you like the least?”) to get the most out of it.

Review the data collected and identify the outliers. Solve the ones customers keep bringing up quickly and watch the company’s NPS score go up. Get everyone to agree in joining this recurring meeting and you have yourself a well-oiled customer experience (some call it customer-centric) focused company. At the end of the day, remember to thank the soldiers in the front line and let them know that they are as important as everyone else—including the CEO.

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