Is Your Customer Service Experience Being Left to Chance?

A great customer service experience cannot be created merely by completing a checklist.

I train many hospitality clients and when leading a training session, I often call other hotels to see how those locations are doing in terms of customer service and how well the agent is handling a request for a reservation. We then analyze the call to determine what that hotel is doing right and what improvements can be made to its customer service.

I recently called a hotel directly and inquired about the rate for a hotel room. With a heavy sigh, the front desk agent looked up the rate for the requested date. After 45 seconds of dead silence, she then informed me the price of the room. I asked her if she would make the reservation for me. She replied, “Sir, I cannot and will not make that reservation,” and with that retort, she immediately transferred me to a call center to handle my request.

To tell a potential customer you cannot help them is not great customer service under any circumstance and certainly not a way to drive revenues or increase repeat business. I am positive customer service is very important to this organization. But at that point of customer contact, they dropped the ball. Why?

It’s important to realize that the customer service experience is not a series of tasks. A great customer service experience cannot be created merely by completing a checklist. You must realize that customer service is how the customer feels with each encounter with our associates. Taking the time to train associates on ways to connect with the customer gives them the confidence to engage each customer on a personal level. Are your associates trained to connect with each customer?

As leaders, we should be asking ourselves several questions:

Are we sending the message that every customer contact is an opportunity to impress our customers? Recently, I went to large retailer to purchase a video game for my son. Having never been to this establishment, I knew I needed help to find the electronics section. I approached a person who was wearing a vest proclaiming they work for the store, who said, “How may I help you?”

I asked this employee if they could direct me to the right spot. This person turned around to face me and said, “No, I am stocking shelves because that’s my job.”

Perhaps this was the message this person received from their leadership team so, once again, I ask: Are we sending the message of the importance of customer service at every opportunity?

Are we empowering our associates to deliver a level of customer of service that garners customer loyalty? In the example of the call to the hotel front desk, the agent refused to help and then transferred me to someone who could. Could she have been more helpful, even though she could not ultimately do what I was asking, and thereby make the interaction more customer service orientated? Yes, she could have. Did she know she could do more?

Are we taking the time to train and reinforce the skills that we as leaders know will deliver great customer service? Lip service doesn’t create customer service. As leaders, we need a path to make sure we have all associates trained by using role-play to demonstrate best practices. We need to engage our associates and talk about customer experiences in terms of what did they do right and how could they do a little better. Training is not a one-day endeavor if we want it to stick. We must take the time to reinforce and recognize desired behaviors and correct associates when we see bad behaviors. Only by using this method can we improve our customer service.

Deciding to focus on the customer service experience is a decision easily made by organizations in this highly competitive atmosphere. The hard work comes when we commit to turn words into action. Without training and reinforcement, the customer service experience is left to chance. Is that a chance your organization is willing to take?

Joe Lipham is a Training account manager at Signature Worldwide, a Dublin, OH-based company offering sales and customer service training, marketing, and mystery shopping services for a variety of service-based industries. For more information, call 800.398.0518 or visit www.signatureworldwide.com. You also can connect with Signature on Twitter @SignatureWorld and on Facebook.

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