Organizations spend hours talking about excellent customer service. Many spend hundreds of thousands of dollars annually training employees to put the customer first. The vast majority of local governments don’t have that luxury. So, what can we do on a shoestring budget to make sure we are providing the best customer service possible?
Here are a handful of suggestions:
- Start from within. Managers and supervisors cannot expect direct reports to exercise outstanding customer service if they are treating those same direct reports poorly. If you expect direct reports to greet customers enthusiastically, you must model enthusiasm when interacting with your own team. Pick your customer service outcome. If you expect it externally, you must model it internally.
- Remember the “why”. Malcolm Knowles, one of the pioneers of adult learning theory, suggests that adults must know why they are learning something in order for them to truly learn. As employers, we need to remind our employees of “why” positive customer service actions are relevant to desired customer service outcomes.
- Be a coach, not a curmudgeon. A curmudgeon is defined as, “A bad tempered or surly person.” Sounds like someone you want to work for – right? I think it is safe to say most of us would prefer to work for a coach— a leader who helps us reach our full potential. Managers and supervisors will have bad days like everyone else. When that happens, don’t take it out on your direct reports. Remember point one? It applies on bad days too.
- Diagnose first; act second. Before looking at an employee’s inability to provide excellent customer service ask, “Is a flawed system contributing to poor performance or is the employee continually returning to poor customer service habits even after coaching?” If the former is true, don’t make the employee a scapegoat when the issue is systemic. If the latter is true, then disciplinary action may be in order.
These small actions are by no means an exhaustive list. They do provide a starting point. As a service organization, consider choosing small actions that over time have the potential to yield big results.