What is a Great Customer Service Department?

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If you took a random survey of companies across the globe and ask them if they had a great customer service department, what do you think they would say? You are right. The majority of them would say they do. Now, if you took the customers of those exact same companies and asked them, I bet you would get a different story. In fact, most customers do not have what they would consider a great experience. Somehow, as leaders, we tell ourselves comforting lies to protect ourselves from unpleasant truths. What we need to do as leaders is to figure out how to close that gap between our efforts to give excellent customer service and how the efforts are perceived, which is our company’s true customer experience.

The first thing you have to do is to put policies, procedures and training into place in order to deliver on your company’s core values. Many times, I have walked into a customer service department and see strong powerful words, developed by the company through extensive effort, that the department is expected to follow above all else. When I ask employees if they can recite these values to me, I usually get the deer in headlights look. When I dig deeper and enquire on how they are measured against the company core values, I either get a shrug of the shoulders or simply an “I don’t know.” In fact, if I were to ask the leaders of the customer service departments I was visiting the same questions, I would get the same response 9.9 out of 10 times. So much time and energy is put into developing these ideals which really end up being a lot of wasted money and just words on a wall.

Do you want to be more? Do you want to create a great customer service department? If so, you will have a lot of work to do, but in the end you will create something that only a few brands have achieved. It will all hinge on bringing your core values to life within your customer service department. Unless every action and decision you make can be supported by your core values, you do not do it, period. All brands who have a great customer service department treat their core values more than just words on paper. They invest time and resources ensuring each employee has a clear understanding of the values and how they directly interweave with their job duties and functions.

The second thing you have to do is ask yourself the following questions. What are the typical measurements and response times in your industry? What are your competitors doing in regards to customer service? What level of service are your customers accustomed to? How can your brand continue to delight your customers over time? If you cannot answer these questions, you need to roll up your sleeves and do your homework. Study your industry, become a secret shopper, and learn the habits and behaviors of your customers. When you approach customer service in this manner, you will establish a differentiator from your peers which will create the great customer service department that eludes most.

While working with a CEO recently, I did some secret shopper tasks on their brand and their competitors. What I found was eye opening for that executive team. The industry was set up as an omnichannel, which is simply a multichannel approach to sales that seeks to provide customers with a seamless shopping experience. I took each avenue and tested their brand against their competitors. Social media messages were returned anywhere from 22 hours to 11 days later. Email messages were answered anywhere from 2 hours and 45 minutes to 8 hours and 11 minutes later. Both sets of inquires left me underwhelmed to say the least. Not only was the time between my inquiry and their response subpar, but, in most cases, it was not informative at all or they simply told me to call customer service. The question I asked myself was simple. Why would you offer me this channel to communicate with your brand if you were merely going to tell me to call into customer service or not provide me the information I requested? If I were a real customer, I probably would not have followed up with the call. When I did call each brand, the holds were either short or I held for over 5 minutes. However, each call was bland at best and left me, the customer, to do the work after suggestions were made. The goal is to make the customer effort seamless and , in this case, the company did not deliver.

Finally, with this information, I invited the CEO to consider the following in order to “WOW” the customer.
• What channels did they want to use their efforts and be committed to in order to be most effective? (Social Media, Emails, Chat, Phone)
• How quickly will they respond to customers on each channel?
• What turnaround timeline are they going to communicate with their employees and customers in order to close out a request?
• How will they behave when dealing with their customers? (Tone, language, attitude, empathy, etc.)
• Who in the company is responsible for their customer service?

These queries are just the first in a series of questions and actions that need to be considered by any brand when they start out on their journey of becoming a great customer service department. Far too many brands settle for just good enough or mediocracy at best. Is that what you want for your brand, your employees, and your customers? I hope the answer is a resounding no. If you are looking to create something special, a lasting brand in a competitive market with the customer service experience and, essentially, your success as a company, it all starts with you as the leader. You must be willing through communication, training and execution to hold yourself, your leaders, and your employees up to your core values. If they are simply words on paper, your customer service department will never be anything more than a job where people will do what they have to in order to collect a paycheck and keep their job. However, if you make your core values a living and breathing culture in your company, you are well on your way to creating a great customer service department that will set you apart not only from your competition, but put you on par with the best in the world.

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