The best driver of your own customer service and support performance will ultimately be the establishment – and use – of realistic self-guidelines that balance all key aspects of customer service and support. For this, we suggest the following:
Define in your own mind what means the most to your customers by fostering an interactive services partnership with them, based on “real” two-way communications;
- Commit to making changes in the way you manage your customer relationships wherever you – and your customers – feel it to be necessary; and
- Maintain your flexibility by recognizing that customer service and support performance management – and CRM – is an ongoing process.
Taking this all down one step further, we also suggest that you strive to incorporate each of the following into your customer service and support “way of life”:
- Adapt, don’t adopt; make “best practices” work for you.
- Acknowledge that customer service does not come from the top, but rather from all levels within the organization – and especially from the field.
- Listen to your customers; “hear” what they have to say.
- Listen to your managers and co-workers; work together as a team.
- Partner with your customers; manage your customer relationships better.
Adapt, don’t adopt.
A best practice process may not always be adopted exactly the way it is done in another “best-in-class” organization; but it can generally be adapted to fit your organization’s needs and culture with some modifications, changes, or “tweaks”. At the end of the day, you will need to adapt a specific approach that fits your own – and your customers’ – particular needs.
Acknowledge that customer service does not come from the top.
Customer service management is important, but it does not necessarily come down from the top levels within the organization. Leadership by example – by employees like you – in managing customer relationships, resolving their problems, and converting satisfied customers into loyal ones are what makes for a successful customer service and support organization.
Listen to your customers.
You will never know what is important to your customers until they tell you – and no matter how smart you think you are, or how well you think you know them, they will continually surprise you with what they say. Learn to listen to them (i.e., LOTS), and learn to act as quickly as possible based on what they say.
Listen to your managers and co-workers.
Your managers and co-workers may also have a great deal of historical knowledge and experience on a day-to-day operations level with respect to the systems and equipment you support – as well as some of the customer themselves. Don’t underestimate the importance of this information and expertise – and don’t prevent yourself from gaining from this expertise. Make sure that your channels of communication with your managers and co-workers is as open as the ones you have with your customers.
Partner with your customers.
Finally, the more you partner with your customers, the more likely you will be to provide them with “over and above the call of duty” customer service and support. Also, the better you are able to communicate with them (and them with you), the more quickly you will be able to act in their (and the company’s) behalf.
Remember – these are only guidelines, designed for the masses. But, you are an individual; and every one of your customers is different – no matter how similar they may appear to be at any given moment in time. Establish your own set of measures and guidelines – and then, follow them! Remain flexible and open to change as you deal with your customers, and they will lead you down the proper path. You can bet on it!
Customer service is not a game, any more then the technical training you have received is a game. Both are serious matters, and both go hand-in-hand. We would strongly argue that you cannot be successful in your position without a fair mastery in both areas.
You have probably already received extensive training on how to fix various types of business systems and equipment. You probably also take remedial courses from time-to-time; and whenever a new product line or upgrade is introduced, you probably receive special training on how to service that equipment as well. Customer service is no different. There’s no question that you will need to take follow-up training courses in this area over time as well. That’s the nature of the business, and you’re directly involved in it – right at the front lines.
Whether you call it “customer service”, “technical support”, “field service”, “Customer Relationship Management”, “CRM”, or whatever – it just makes sense to treat your customers better! It’s basically a win-win situation for everybody involved. The “best practices” organizations have already learned this – and now, you have as well.
When you think of it, isn’t that what we’re all looking for – making our jobs a little easier on a day-to-day basis; earning the respect and trust of the people we support; improving the way we are able to conduct our own affairs at our respective jobs; and treating each other the way we want to be treated ourselves?
There is nothing difficult about customer relationship management. In fact, if you do it right, it can be argued that fixing the customer is really a lot easier than fixing the equipment.