Perfecting Service Management

Issue #34

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Holiday Greetings

We at Customer Centricity would like to wish you and yours Happy Holidays and a prosperous New Year.

Rewarding and Incenting Customer Service Representatives (Part 2)
by Craig Bailey

In response to a request by one of our subscribers, we are pleased to provide the second article in the series on "Rewarding and Incenting Customer Service Representatives." In this edition, we discuss a second prerequisite for ensuring that your reward and incentive program is truly effective.

Empower the front-line

Is your front-line restricted from providing exceptional levels of customer service by rigid procedures and micro-management? Not only can this be the MOST frustrating thing that a customer service representative faces, it also has a negative impact on your ability to motivate your customer service representatives. They really WANT to do the right thing, but don't want to get hand-slapped for deviating from procedure. While procedures and guidelines are absolutely critical to ensure a smoothly operating customer service function, it is important to remember that your employees are intelligent human beings with common sense and good judgment.

Like any normal customer, I suspect that you have experienced situations similar to the following:

Example 1: You are discussing an issue with a customer service representative that would, at the end of the day, cost the firm less to resolve than the cost of the call. However, because the customer service person is bound by rigid procedures, she is required to explain, and explain again, why she cannot take remedial action because it is not standard operating procedure. For those of us that are aggressive, what do we do next? We politely ask "may I speak with your supervisor?" Cha-ching. Did you just hear more cash leave your coffers?

Example 2: You are at a retail establishment that sells high-end pens. The customer (me) sees a very nice pen in the display case that he'd like to purchase. However, much to his dismay, he learns that the only one left is in the display case. He asks the customer service person "may I buy the one in the display case?" You know the response…So, instead, I end up buying a pen that was half the price.

To achieve an empowered, yet consistent, workforce, you must strike a balance between rigid procedures and individual judgment. You should manage your customer service function with well-defined procedures, yet make it clear that where there are opportunities to "do the right thing for the customer" within certain guidelines, the customer service representatives should do so. After the "transaction" has completed, a discussion can take place, if necessary, to refine the guidelines so that others can provide a similar response if the situation comes up again. And, if it was the wrong decision, which invariably will happen from time to time, then management should diplomatically explain the impact of this decision to avoid it recurring in the future. However, this should NOT be done in a reprimanding fashion. The only time that a reprimand is appropriate is when a customer service representative has demonstrated repeatedly (3 times, at a minimum) his or her lack of common sense and good judgment.

By effectively empowering your customer service representatives to do the "right thing" for the customer, even when it deviates from defined procedures, you will find that employee satisfaction will go up. This occurs because the customer service representatives feel trusted by management to do the right thing for the customer, which is what they REALLY want to do. As you can imagine, this will also have a positive impact on customer satisfaction, retention and finally operational efficiencies.

Subsequent newsletter editions will share other elements for effectively rewarding and incenting customer service personnel that augment the items already discussed.

REMINDER: If you have interesting ways to reward or incent your customer service personnel, enter our contest (see information in right panel).


View Previous Articles In the Series

Preserving a Healthy Customer Base (Part 3)
by Will O'Keeffe

This is a multi-part series presenting eight simple rules for preserving a healthy customer base. Issues already discussed are: Forecasting the Customer Base; Avoiding the Free Agent Dilemma; Organize for Retention; and Prioritize the Customer Base. Two more rules are presented in this issue.

Don't be a Stranger
When you're looking to build or retain business, you do not want to hear your customer say, "The only time I see you is when you want me to buy something." In practical terms, you can't be in constant contact with every customer all the time. However, the Customer Service and Sales reps need to have noticeable and regular contact and need to leverage tools such as service summaries, transaction follow-ups, etc. that afford quality contact, but little time investment. For significant accounts, regular service and account reviews should be the norm. The combination of proactive, productive attention to the account and quality service delivery often increases switching costs in the eyes of the customer, which is increasingly important in today's competitive environment.

Have a Customer Retention Strategy
At the highest level, you need goals and targets for retention %, customer base revenue, etc. But when it comes to preserving the business, the strategy needs to translate to lower levels—classes of customers or individual customers, depending on your business. For key customers, what issues need addressing and problems need solving to get the renewal done? For unprofitable customers, what needs to be done to make them profitable and where/when do we walk away? This strategy or plan is managed by the team leads and executives who build the right team to keep the customer.

The final article in this series will present the the last two rules for preserving a healthy customer base. If you want help preserving your customer base, feel free to contact us.


View Previous Articles In the Series


Recommended Reading

Preserving A Healthy Customer Base

CCI Contest

Rewarding and Incenting Customer Service Representatives


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Recommended Reading
Every organization has its difficult customers. In their Help Desk Institute article "Good Customer Service: The Starting Point for Handling Difficult Customers," Gary Case and Patrice Rhoades-Baum discuss how meeting your customers' psychological needs is an important aspect of serving and satisfying <i<all your customers, especially your difficult ones.
View full article

CCI Contest
Thank you to those who have already submitted ideas for rewarding and incenting customer service pesonnel. For those of you who have not yet submitted your ideas, you have until the end of the year to share what has worked well for you. There are many subscribers who could benefit from your ideas and successes.

Contest details: submit your unique approach to incenting / rewarding your customer service personnel to A panel of 3 Customer Centricity consultants will review the submissions, identify the best idea, and announce the winner in our first newsletter of 2004. Winners will see their name in electronic print (within our newsletter) and can also choose an item of their choice from the Customer Centricity logo shop.

About Customer Centricity, Inc.
We strengthen overall company performance through better service delivery and management.

We boost efficiencies in front-line customer service and technical support teams, order processing, fulfillment, field service, logistics and other key operations functions.

In short, we align the resources of your organization to exceed your customers' expectations in the most effective and efficient manner possible.

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