How to Really Gain an Edge
In today’s world, companies are continually trying to get the edge on each other. They spend thousands marketing their way to the top. They employee all sorts of teams, have multiple offsite meetings and from the top level - have management meetings to try to develop new products and services that will help them capture market share. At the end of the day, keeping an existing customer is about six times less expensive than finding a new one. The costs of putting your sales team on the road, identifying new customers, working to build trust and loyalty from your customer base takes time and resources.
Why Customer Service Matters
The two areas where most companies lack are in customer service and internal communication. While we live in a world where price is king and all of the on line surfing can show you the best competitive prices, deliveries, and quality ratings – the only thing remaining is customer service. Now I am the first to admit that I struggle to pay extra for excellent customer service, but if I experience great customer service I am much more likely to come back. Additionally, customer service doesn’t just start with answering the phone and filling orders. It goes all the way to quality control and how your products performs in the field. Every company is going to have quality issues. It is a matter of how you deal with these issues that sets you apart. The challenge here is that we live in a world that is very non-confrontational.
While that seems like a good short term strategy for your employees, in the long run it will be detrimental to your company. Because just like it is easy to hide behind a computer and do research without having to interact with other people, it is just as easy to post negative comments and negative reviews without confronting the offenders. Your customer service and sales teams are the face of the customer and are the difference between your business being successful and failing. If you make the assumption that your team does great customer service, best to check with the people who matter, your customers. It doesn’t matter what you think, what your management team tells you, or how much you like your staff – if the customers do like them and don’t feel like they are being taken care of, none of it matters.
Communication is a People Problem
Likewise, communication routinely gets blamed for issues both inside and outside of a company. Truth be told, communication is also a people problem. While the concept of communication is simple, it is amazing the number of companies that have issues with it. Again there is too much assuming that goes on. The one who is presenting their case generally feels like they have explained themselves thoroughly while the receiver doesn’t understand the full scope of what is said and is either afraid to announce their weakness or they are overwhelmed and cannot possibly comprehend all of the information coming at them. In the latter case, there is no choice but to filter the information that is coming at them and prioritize the information to the best of their knowledge. Problem is, that this very rarely aligns with the person who was speaking. It is at this point that things get misinterpreted or misunderstood and issues arise. Again if the miscommunication makes its way to the customer, you have a problem on your hands. Worse yet, if you don’t address it quickly it can blown out of proportion through social quickly.
So what does all this mean for today’s businesses? It is critical that when you are hiring or evaluating employees that you need to make sure that they understand the importance of communication. They will tell you that they do, but be cautious. Communicating just through social channels and email are not acceptable. People do business with people. It is important that your team establish relationships with your customers and that they serve in the role of trusted advisor for them. Regardless of the position in your organization, social skills are a must. If your team is either too afraid or too shy to communicate with each other or the customer, the results could be catastrophic.
Now, you don’t want the pendulum to swing too far the other way. There are times when people can over communicate. The problem here is that if management needs to answer every small question while going through a process, then you don’t need that employee. You hired that employee for their strengths and skills and as such you are entrusting that that person can do their job. The employee needs to have enough confidence in their own ability to make decisions or at least build a list of questions to present.
Balancing excellent customer service and communication are key to creating a strong culture in the workplace. The first step is admitting and recognizing that you have a problem.