By Peter L Mitchell
The increasing emphasis on customer service is unrelenting and as a result is in danger of causing confusion. Unfortunately, service is measured by the customers' subjective experience of feeling served.
This is normally coupled with a sterner measure of whether or not a product was delivered to specification. The biggest issue in customer service is the subjective opinion of the customers. What is a high quality service to one customer is not necessarily regarded as a high quality service to another. This means that training is very much a hit and miss affair because each customer really needs to be dealt with individually and that is not always possible.
We want our staff to provide personal service yet, this in itself can create a challenge. Each time a customer is dealt with personally, there is more opportunity for surprise and confusion than ever before. Customers are not necessarily very predictable and have a habit of presenting problems that are unique to them. And our service person is expected to deal with all of them no matter what they are. This requires quick thinking as well as having a range of solutions ready to apply at any given time. Training service staff in this aspect of their work is yet another challenge because their ready-made solutions may not be applicable and they have to think on their feet.
When you look at it through the customers' eyes, you see a desire for less confusion and problem solving rather than the opposite. In this context, you could regard customer service as a willingness to absorb the customers' confusion and the provision of practical solutions. Seen in this light, the determination to be of service to a customer is a considerable commitment.
Customer care training poses specific problems as we work our way through the continuing emphasis on the provision of better service. All this is taking place against a background where there is a continual war for the consumer dollar.
It seems that the best way of training people in service is the promotion of concepts rather than training in specific tasks. The challenge is to provide the concepts which are easy to remember, understand and apply consistently. Getting the "buy-in" for the concepts is critical. One of the techniques that can be quite successful is the use of "brainstorming" and discussion to develop the concepts among the service staff. Prescribing concepts for them to operate under is counterproductive and normally fails.
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