When asked, most small business owners point to product quality as their company's biggest strength.
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But in business, product quality doesn't mean a thing if you don't have a high-quality customer service program backing up your merchandise. If customer service is costing you business, maybe it's time for a little improvement training.
The simple truth is that a lot of customers base their purchasing decisions on service – not product quality. So from a competitive standpoint, the more effort you invest in improving your customer service program, the more effective your business will be in capturing its share of the market. You could take a piecemeal approach to improving your customer service, but it's usually better to engage with an improvement training program that is capable of improving the quality of service across the organization.
Whenever possible, hire an outside consultant to lead improvement training sessions. Outsiders bring a fresh perspective to the situation and are more willing to embrace change because they have no investment in maintain the status quo. But regardless of whether or not you bring in an outsider, it's important for everyone in the organization to be engaged in the process. With that in mind, here is what customer service improvement could look like for your business:
Session 1: Clarify Goals
Although it's up to you how long each training session lasts, it's not uncommon for each session to stretch out over a day or two. In the first session, management and supervisors gather to address the company's customer service goals. One of the key issues to be discussed is the gap between actual customer service and the ideal level of service the company's leaders would like to provide.
Session 2: Solicit Input from Frontline Customer Service Providers
In the next session, company leaders communicate their goals to the organization's customer service providers and solicit their input. Even though it is management's responsibility to establish customer service goals, customer service providers need to feel invested in the process and should be able to express their thoughts on the subject in a collaborative training environment.
Session 3: Develop an Implementation Plan
Similar to the previous session, the implementation session involves both company leaders and frontline service providers. At this stage in the process, you have presumably established where you want to go with customer service. This session focuses on how the organization will go about getting there. Everyone's input is welcome, but by the end of this session company leaders and service providers should have a written implementation plan clearly describing the role each person will play in improving the organization's ability to meet its customers needs. If additional training is required, management should identify training opportunities and communicate their expectations for participation.
Sessions 4+: Conduct Follow-Up
Follow-up sessions are possibly the most critical sessions in the entire process. They can involve management only sessions as well as sessions for everyone in the organization. When you schedule these sessions is up to you. The important thing is that you use them to evaluate your progress and make adjustments as needed.