Companies are the chains that link customers to the products or services they want or need. Consider that each department in a company is a link on the chain. Now think of the departments in your own organization and the number of times a customer may encounter someone working in that department. Thinking of your organization in this way can only drive home the point that your company, franchise, store, practice, or organization is only as strong as its weakest link.
I am often called in to organizations to consult on customer service. Many CEOs will ask me to analyze what’s going on in their customer service departments and suggest fixes for the most common complaints about that department – employees with surly attitudes, the inability to manage angry customers, employee disinterest in the customer to name a few. What I am always amazed to discover is that quite often the problems have started long before the customer even gets to the customer service department. The problem has occurred with the weak link in the chain – the department or departments that are operating according to their own set of standards and policies. The customer service department is usually the last resort for the customer who couldn’t find satisfaction elsewhere in the organization. Customer service is usually the dumping ground for all the unmet expectations of the customer, who has tried their level best to guide themselves through your process using the chain you have provided for them. The customer often arrives in the customer service department annoyed, frustrated, confused, or angry. They rarely arrive here happy and singing the praises of your organization.
Knowing that this department is the last stop for many customers, why is it that so many organizations are unwilling to invest in the recognition, training, and support of the people who handle the less-than-happy customer?
Here are a few key things to think about as you plan for the next quarter/year:
- Spend time listening to your customer service department. They know which departments are the weak link in your chain. Most organizations have several weak links.
- Do a thorough audit of your inter-departmental policies. Pay close attention to those policies that require help or support from other departments in the organization.
- Coach your managers to be collaborative. Too often, passive aggressive behavior and sabotage ruin organizations that allow this type of culture.
- Mystery shop or survey your customers on a regular basis. Ask your customers how well you deliver on all aspects of your operations – from marketing to customer service!
Do you have a plan in place for auditing your “chain”?