Sunday, May 23, 2010

Establishing priorities for Customer Service

“Look through your customer’s eyes. Are you the solution provider or part of the problem?” ~Marlene Blaszczyk

During my recent trip to South Florida, a colleague of mine was checking out of the hotel that we were staying in. The morning that we were due to check out, the hotel somehow neglected to put a bill under her door, and she had to go up to the front desk to request a copy.

Just as she began speaking to the front desk attendant, his phone rang. He answered the phone, leaving my friend standing there while he dealt with the problem – a guest needed directions to a restaurant. As soon as he hung up, another call came in. This time it was directions to the airport, and my friend was basically ignored while the attendant helped the caller. Believe it or not, this happened a third time with a guest who wanted to leave a wake-up call! Each minute that passed, my friend got angrier and angrier, but she managed to maintain her composure in spite of the incredibly bad customer service.

I have no idea why so many staff members believe that they have to deal with the telephone first rather than the client who is looking them in the face. I cannot tell you the number of times this has happened to me in doctors’ offices, and I have found this to be one of the rudest things possible. I have made an actual trip into the office, and then the priority is given to someone who calls in, regardless of the purpose of the call. This is just bad business.

I believe the best policy is to always give the priority to the customer who is physically present in the business. However, this is not to say that staff should ignore the telephone if they are with a customer. If an employee is dealing with a live customer and the phone rings, the employee should ask the customer if he or she could answer the phone quickly. They can then answer and say something along the lines of, “Thanks for calling XYZ Company. I am currently assisting another customer. Would you mind if I put you on hold for X minutes (however many they think the delay will be)?” This way the staff member acknowledges the customer on the phone but gives priority to the person in front of them.

While this sounds like such a simple concept, it really needs to be said over and over again with some sort of monitoring.

We have gotten this point across very successfully by using role-playing scenarios, after which we observe staff to ensure that the training worked.

Now go out and make sure your staff has been trained on how to assign priority when serving customers.

You can do this!

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