February 25, 2014
What’s the primary role of a customer service employee?
For many people, the “right” answer is delighting customers. There’s also a difference between what is said and what is done. In practice, customer service often takes a back seat to the tasks that define an employee’s job.
The result is check-the-box service. Here are a few examples:
Strangely, check-the-box service is usually not the employee’s fault. They’re simply executing their assigned duties based on what they’re told to do and what management will notice.
As I noted in a recent post on the Zendesk blog service standards are often to blame. Many companies monitor employee performance with a checklist of required behaviors. Supervisors, quality assurance departments, and mystery shoppers use these checklists to evaluate employee performance.
Here are some real examples:
Employees in these environments are literally more concerned with checking the box than they are with delighting the customer. Indifferent service won’t cost them their job, but consistently failing to check the box might.
Most customer service environments have some service standards. Those won’t go away completely. However, there are a few things you can do to avoid check-the-box service:
Define Outstanding Service
Start by creating a clear definition of outstanding service that all employees understand. A 2013 survey found that 38 percent of companies hadn’t done this. It’s easy to check-the-box service when outstanding service is unclear.
Prioritize Outstanding Service
Make it clear that serving customers really is the top priority. The Home Depot offers a great case study here. When they hit their low point on the American Customer Satisfaction Index in 2007, serving customers wasn’t the top priority in their daily retail operations. They decided to simplify their retail associates’ jobs so they could spend more time helping customers. The result is they are now rated 10 points higher on the American Customer Satisfaction Index.
Focus on Outcomes
Check-the-box service comes as a result of focusing on tasks rather than making customers happy. Spend less time worrying about compliance and more time trying to ensure customers are happy.
A customer once taught me this lesson when I was an account manager for a uniform company. I had just given him a list of excuses as to why I couldn’t get his order shipped out when he wanted it. It wasn’t that it couldn’t be done — my company’s policies just didn’t allow it. His simple reply was, “Isn’t that what they pay you for? Sometimes you have to bend the rules a little.”
I decided to skip checking a few boxes that day and just make sure my customer got his order.
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