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ADVICE LIBRARY > HR & MANAGEMENT
How to Create a Customer-Focused Team by Debra Schmidt
There is no magic formula for creating a team of customer-focused employees. But one thing is certain: it's the manager's responsibility to create an environment that motivates employees to want to take care of customers. In order to create a team of employees that are personally committed to service excellence, managers may need a fresh point of view. One of the great problems in customer service is the reluctance of managers to view service as a marketing strategy. Too many see it as after-sale service, something that relates back to a previous sale, rather than ahead to the next one. Studies prove that great service is more effective at increasing profits than marketing or advertising. The following conditions need to be met for creating customer-focused teams:
Replace lip service with words and actions that consistently show employees that management is committed to the delivery of exceptional customer service. Staff meeting should focus more on meeting the needs of the customer than meeting the needs of the manager.
Listen to employee ideas. Sam Walton said, "Listen to everyone in your company, especially the ones who actually talk to customers. They really know what's going on out there." Implement realistic, creative ideas that benefit the customer. No matter how far removed employees are from the front line, they need to believe that their work affects the customer perceptions of the company.
Internal customer service
Create a "we're in this together" environment. Help your employees to recognize that everyone in the company is one big team. Meet with other departments on a regular basis to build understanding and collaboration between work teams. Set ground rules that simply do not tolerate gossip. Redirect employees who complain by challenging them to come up with the solutions to problems.
View training as an investment, not a cost. It's an investment in both customer and employee retention. It's an investment in sales and marketing. It's an investment in quality. Training must be a priority and an ongoing reinforcement of the customer focus. Provide training that equips employees with the skills and tools they need to deliver exceptional customer service.
Policies that benefit the customer
Evaluate existing policies and rules to see if they are really necessary. Who benefits from them? How much do they damage customer relationships? How often are they bent or broken by managers? If a policy needs to be in place, make sure that every employee on the team understands the reasons behind it. Trust employees. Give employees the ability and power to do the right thing for the customer right away. Don't undermine an employee by over-riding their decision to help the customer.
Shared customer feedback
Everyone on the team needs to hear from the customers. Share customer satisfaction survey results. Read letters and comments from customers during staff meetings. Encourage the team to come up with a list of open-ended questions they can ask customers on a regular basis to invite feedback and ideas for improving service.
A quality service program will come to a screeching halt without management commitment, employee involvement and constant reinforcement. You know you're part of a customer-focused team when the most important question on the mind of managers and employees alike is, "How can I do my work in a way that will delight the customer?"
Debra J. Schmidt is a professional speaker, corporate trainer and author who leads businesses to greater customer and employee loyalty. Subscribe to Deb's FREE newsletter at Loyalty Leader.com.