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How to Train Your Staff to Deliver Good Service

Follow these tips to ensure that all your employees understand the value of good customer service

Entrepreneur

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Is customer service important? Is it every employee’s responsibility? The answer to both of these questions is a resounding yes! And more importantly, the major responsibility for creating a customer-friendly atmosphere begins with you, the boss. Not only are you responsible for teaching first-rate customer service skills, but as their leader, you must demonstrate these behaviours and be a role model for your employees. Without positive examples from you, they’re unlikely to improve.

Whether or not your employees work specifically as customer service people you must instil in all your employees one key strategic thought and direction: If you’re going to create a positive and productive business environment, everyone must speak and relate to customers and potential customers as if each person were their pay cheque. Because, in fact, they are.

Tell your employees to seriously consider this startling truth: If customers don’t keep coming back and purchasing your company’s products or services, there will be no company. And obviously, if there’s no company, or if you’re forced to downsize, many of the people working for you now may lose their jobs.

So what is optimal customer service? Simply stated, it’s a positive way of relating to people that lets them know you care about them and the buying process, no matter how expensive, intricate or involved it is. Your main goal is to have each customer leave with a smile on their face and a feeling of having been well taken care of by you and your employees – and for having purchased just what they needed or wanted.

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Why and How You Can Coach Instead of Criticise Employees

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But why is optimal customer service so crucial? Won’t customers keep coming back if your price is right? Not necessarily. If you want your customers to come back again and again, you have to satisfy them by making it easy for them to do business with you, which will get them to return for more. Understand that if they aren’t treated properly, they won’t become those coveted return customers.

Here are four powerful points you need to model and impart to your employees in order for them to provide top-notch service to the purchasing public.

Optimal customer service means

  1. Your employees can keep their jobs. Remember, no customers equals no business and no employees. 
  2.  You have created a positive buying atmosphere for both first-time and repeat customers. 
  3.  You’re able to satisfy the information or buying needs of your potential customers. 
  4.  You’re able to transform prospects into happy, satisfied customers. And happy, satisfied customers come back for more.

Modify behaviour to embrace service

Your next step is to teach and motivate your employees to demonstrate the following successful customer service behaviours:

  • Stop talking with colleagues and get off the phone whenever a potential customer approaches.
  • Look up and at the person, smile and welcome your potential pay cheque.
  • Ask how you can help or assist your potential customer
  • Provide information in a pleasant manner, always remembering to smile.
  • Ask, in a friendly way, if you’ve been of assistance to the customer. If the answer is “no”, continue to serve your customer until you’ve satisfied their needs.
  • Ask if there’s anything else you can do to help them make the right decision.
  • Smile, say goodbye and encourage the customer to return with other questions.
  • Mean what you say and mean what you do.

And don’t forget that the most important features of an interaction that potential buyers will remember are how helpful the employee was and how delighted or satisfied the customers are with the product and the process of purchasing.

Undoubtedly, these satisfied customers will return over and over. And this result is due to the attitude, politeness and willingness to assist that your employees express.

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Branson on How to Train Staff and Keep Them Inspired.

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How to Guides

Performance Measurement Is No Game. Or Is It?

Gamification has become a hot topic in recent years, but what does it actually mean for your business, and how you can use it to drive employee performance?

Grant Field

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project-pig

What Project PIG achieved:

Reduced daily inbound communications from 500 at inception to less than 200, and slashed the dropped call rate from 20% to less than 1%, beating both industry norms and our own stricter deadlines and SLAs (Service Level Agreements).

Further to this, reports give insight into what has happened in a business, but not into what is happening at that very moment. Strategy is necessarily quite fixed, but day-to-day actions require constant adjusting. Real-time measurements are more than reports. They help determine bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and administration-heavy processes, and ensure that feasible growth points are no longer dependent on guesswork.

Someone once told to me that the job of a CEO is like flying a jumbo jet. You have to be able to see the big picture — the mountains, the sky, cloud cover and the terrain below. But you also need to be able to hone in on the finer details — altitude, wind speed, changes in barometric air pressure to avoid colliding with the jagged peaks ahead.

Being the son of a businessman, I was fortunate enough to learn the importance of measuring these finer details at a young age. As early as grade one my father encouraged me to be entrepreneurial, and I started my first business at the ripe old age of six. It was a sticker business whose main customers were my fellow grade ones.

With a father trained as an accountant I wasn’t going to get away with simply stashing my profits into my piggy bank. From day one he had me draw up a ledger to record my sales, cost of sales, profits, losses and inventory. Each night before bedtime I would record the day’s proceeds, comparing them to the previous day’s sales. At the end of the week I could see how I had done relative to previous weeks.

More importantly I could see which stickers sold well and which didn’t, enabling me to adjust my inventory accordingly. Although my bookkeeping and data analysis skills were rudimentary back then, the exercise showed me the importance of measuring performance and maintaining records for future analysis. (I didn’t know it at the time but years later I would read Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler espousing this very philosophy.)

Related: Why Incentives Are A Must For Your Business

Rooted in IT

Fast forward, and I was once again running my own business, this time a software sales and distribution company that I’d launched even before completing my studies in engineering. I also held down a full-time computer science teaching post for the duration of my degree. Shortly after graduation I was asked by my father to assess the IT system of the family business, Fedgroup — an independently owned and run financial services company. Having just completed a number of years studying engineering and teaching computer science, where I’d been steeped in tech culture, it wasn’t long before I realised the company’s systems were woefully behind the times. I quickly set about overhauling the entire IT infrastructure and what started out as a short-term consulting gig quickly morphed into something more substantial, culminating in me being appointed head of operations in 2005.

The main task I set myself was replacing the antiquated, and largely outsourced, IT system with our own custom-built solution. Working 16-hour days with people from virtually every department, ranging from IT and operations to HR, gave me a fantastic insight into which areas of the business were performing and which areas weren’t. Years later we had achieved the Holy Grail — a bespoke, in-house IT platform that ran and monitored every aspect of the business from logging calls to managing pay-outs to members.

I was pleased by what we’d achieved but it wasn’t long before the old measurement bug started biting again. In 2015 I was appointed CEO and despite having built a comprehensive IT platform on which to run the business, I suddenly felt blind.

Fedgroup operates within a landscape that is changing at an ever-increasing rate, one where today’s assumptions may not hold tomorrow. As such, while our system had excellent functionality, it wasn’t all that good at generating management reports and giving insight into what was really happening in the business. Having gone from being effectively embedded in individual teams, where I had an on-the-ground perspective of everyday happenings, I was suddenly catapulted into a top-down oversight role where I had only a bird’s eye view of the entire organisation. In this role, I was expected to guide and formulate strategy, and yet found myself blind to the reality of what was happening on the ground.

Further to this, reports give insight into what has happened in a business, but not into what is happening at that very moment. Strategy is necessarily quite fixed, but day-to-day actions require constant adjusting. Real-time measurements are more than reports. They help determine bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and administration-heavy processes, and ensure that feasible growth points are no longer dependent on guesswork. For the business to survive and grow, I needed to get a better idea of what our individual teams were doing in the trenches each day.

Related: Keep Employee Performance Reviews Short and Frequent

A PIG to the rescue

Enter Project PIG, or more formally: Predictability, Involvement and Growth. This project culminated in us introducing real-time diagnostics and measurement tools into our IT system, to give us a better idea of whether staff members were meeting internal targets or not.

Being a company that is somewhat averse to traditional corporate culture, we wanted to avoid a cut-and-paste KPI (key performance indicator) approach. With a bit of lateral thinking we used a bespoke IT solution to integrate our measurement tools to a specially-branded vending machine, which was painted pink and ‘dressed up’ as a pig. The whole idea behind the pig is that when internal targets are met, the pig glows a healthy pink and dispenses free snacks to staff. However, when targets aren’t met the pink turns to blue and the pig shuts down.

Highly visible screens throughout the office show teams how close they are to meeting goals, thereby incentivising staff to work towards a common purpose. In addition, management has near-real-time access to deep-dive reports. Project PIG also introduced an element of internal competition between departmental teams, which resulted has in them informally challenging each other to see who can get the pig glowing pink first.

Although there’s an element of fun in this approach, it does have real, measurable outcomes. For example, we reduced daily inbound communications from 500 at inception to less than 200, and slashed the dropped call rate from 20% to less than 1%, beating both industry norms and our own stricter deadlines and SLAs (Service Level Agreements).

The advantages of these improvements cannot be underestimated. Reduced communication reduces staffing requirements and is a result of better client servicing. Happy clients result in a saving to the bottom line.

The two most important lessons from Project PIG are that precise measurements are critical to success, and that setting a common goal and enthusing staff to aim at it collectively, enables critical metrics to move in the desired direction.

Gamification has resulted in a reduction in time for completing Group Risk Benefit quotes from seven days to under four hours — something I would not have believed possible before we’d embarked on these initiatives.


Project pig

(Predictability, Involvement, and Growth)

When internal targets are met, the pig glows a healthy pink and dispenses free snacks to staff. However, when targets aren’t met the pink turns to blue and the pig shuts down.


Building up

The success of Project PIG got me thinking about how else we could utilise technology to incentivise performance. Given the success of our irreverent approach to performance management I wanted to introduce even more fun, and an enjoyable way to both track and encourage performance.

I decided to invite a group of game developers to our office for a brainstorming session. The result was our very own Fedgroup game, Fedtropolis, complete with its own storyline and avatars for each company employee. Even my father has a role in the game as the Fedgroup Wizard!

The goal of the game is for teams to work together towards a common purpose, earning Fedgroup coins as they achieve milestones. These coins then contribute towards departmental or team bonus pools, which are shared at the end of the year.

Not only does this encourage teamwork but it also allows teams to self-correct without managers having to intervene. If one team member slacks off, other team members are able to encourage them to keep working towards the team’s goal. And, although all goals are work-related, achieving them is great fun, so while every job is bound to have aspects that could be viewed as ‘The Grudge’, by linking numerous elements to the game, we’ve reduced that dramatically.

This serves two important purposes — it creates a powerful dynamic within teams, promoting not only teamwork, but personal responsibility and deep pride in a job well done; and allows managers to move from ‘policing’, to innovation, being proactive, and earning deeper job satisfaction. Needless to say, not only are business results greatly improved, but our staff members are happier and feel more valued.

In time, the game complexity and rewards will grow, and we roll-out new functionality every Thursday.

We worked hand in hand with our game development team to build a game that, when finished, would allow us full management of the metrics. We gave developers an overview of what was required, then drew strongly on their expertise for suggestions on how to proceed. Although the game introduces a sense of fun, all tasks are work-related and aimed at supporting the business, such as the appearance of a phone monster if the dropped call rate increases. It is also flexible enough to allow for new elements to be introduced as new KPIs are identified.

Related: How to Use Performance Metrics to Measure Company Results

The results of both Project PIG and Fedtropolis can already be seen in the marked improvement in several key areas of our business. Probably the biggest success has been the reduction in time for completing Group Risk Benefit quotes from seven days to under four hours — something I would not have believed possible before we’d embarked on these initiatives.

Other hard and fast results include a 51% improvement in call waiting periods, an email query resolution improvement of 26% and a reduction in quarterly staff turnover from 18,9% to 7,6%.

These results have been a contributor to our two Diamond Arrow awards at this year’s PMR.africa Awards. Since these awards cannot be entered into, but are based on feedback from industry specialists, it proves that our commitment to constantly improve the quality of our service is bearing fruit. Even if you are fully committed to constant improvement, blind spots can occur, and one should always keep an ear open to critical, objective voices to prevent losing touch with the market.

A key part of both the PIG and Fedtropolis is that they are not based on fixed KPIs or performance indicators that are decided on at the start of the year and then set in stone until an employee’s annual review. Employees are encouraged to provide feedback monthly so that we can assess what is working and what isn’t. Goals are then tweaked accordingly.

As mentioned, the financial services landscape is in constant flux. As a business, once your ethos and reason for being are cemented, you need to use this basis to move quickly when required — from board-level decisions right down to how individual staff members are being managed. Our new system allows for this — we can quickly analyse if a product, system, or process is not performing as predicted, and get it back on course. Similarly, with frequent feedback from staff, we can improve how we engage with them, manage them and incentivise them. This is a win-win for all involved.

While implementations such as these are not free, the results have more than justified the expense, with early ROI indicators exceeding our optimistic expectations — not to mention the less tangible results, such as comradery and job satisfaction. Our management team considered the following:

  • The business’s longevity was not up for debate, and this would require investment
  • Our staff is a remarkable group of individuals and is the bedrock of the business. We wanted to support and grow staff members as individuals
  • How could our investment ensure longevity, whilst building an engaged, inspired and fulfilled staff?

While both these initiatives have reaffirmed just how important performance measurement is to business outcomes, they’ve also shown that the exercise doesn’t have to be a grim-faced, bureaucratic ordeal. It can also be a team-driven, collaborative, and fun process.

It creates a powerful dynamic within teams, promoting not only teamwork, but personal responsibility and deep pride in a job well done; and allows managers to move from ‘policing’, to innovation, being proactive, and earning deeper job satisfaction.

Ask yourself these questions within your own business

  • Do you have a strong handle on which areas of the business are performing and which areas aren’t?
  • Do you have real-time access to this information, rather than waiting for monthly or quarterly reports?
  • Do you have the ability to measure how changes in process or methodology are impacting results?
  • At scale, can your business get the most out of your staff’s strengths, and work with their weaknesses?
  • At a granular level, are you aware of how your business’s direction is being influenced, and can all factors be recalibrated to move you in the right direction?

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How to Guides

3 Companies That Do Culture Right and What You Can Learn From Them (Infographic)

Looking to improve your company culture? Google, Pixar and Patagonia have found formulas that work.

Kim Lachance Shandrow

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In-office meditation rooms, rock walls and nap pods are all cool, but there’s so much more to creating a winning company culture than providing gravy perks like these.

To us, company culture is more of a positive collective state of mind, a shared organisational outlook that brings out the best in your employees, reinforces your mission and rocks your common goals. It’s also the attitude, personality and heart and soul of a business. It values people over product.

Related: 5 Inexpensive Ways to Create a Company Culture Like Google’s

If your company culture is a soul-sucking drag – or, worse, outright toxic – chances are it’s not too late to turn it around, especially if you’re in a position to catalyse change. Even if only in your corner of cubicle land.

One of the first steps you can take is to examine the top notch cultures of some of today’s most successful companies. And, when you’re feeling brave, gently nudge the powers that be at your business to explore and hopefully emulate them, too.

Take Pixar, for example. The phenomenally successful digital animation studio is built upon a culture of exceptional creativity, innovation and imagination, but its secret sauce really lies in truly, deeply caring for employees and their well being, something it didn’t always do.

In his book Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration (Random House, 2014), Pixar president Ed Catmull describes a terrifying crisis that forever altered the company’s once notoriously workaholic corporate culture.

When the company was hustling to complete Toy Story 2 on time, an overtired employee forgot his child inside of a sweltering car instead of bringing him to daycare (the infant fell unconscious but later recovered). It was a wake-up call. From that point on, Catmull dedicated himself to encouraging a company culture that puts employee health and happiness first, movie deadlines second.

For more on how Pixar  – and Google and Patagonia – foster company cultures that embrace balance, fun and freedom, all while still pushing productivity, check out the infographic from HumanResourcesMBA.net below. We won’t tell if you print it and put it up in the staff nap room.

Creating a corporate culture

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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How to Guides

(Infographic)This Is How Millennials View Work

It’s no secret that “millennial” is a somewhat loaded term that comes with a fair amount of contradictory baggage.

Nina Zipkin

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Millenials

For every think piece that characterises that cohort (those born starting in 1981) as progressive, optimistic and innovative, there is one that describes them as sheltered, entitled and underemployed.

With millennials on track to make up 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025, a recent study by Bentley University in Waltham, Mass., explores the millennial approach to work. The study polled more than 1,000 U.S. individuals aged 18 to 34.

Related: Hello to You: The Millennial Women in the Workforce

While millennials are known to always be glued to their phones and devices, 51 percent surveyed prefer to talk with their co-workers face to face. (Only 19 percent said they like e-mail best and 14 percent prefer texting.) And they’re even willing to put restrictions on their social media time: 66 percent believe that employers should limit time spent on social media sites in order to get more done during the day.

They’re also more loyal than they’re given credit for. Eighty percent believe they will stay with four or fewer companies over the course of their career. Sixteen percent expect to stay with their current job for the rest of their working life.

For more about millennials’ opinions of employee loyalty and long-term goals, as well as the importance of health care and working for an ethical company, check out the infographic below and Bentley University’s study.

millennialsinfographic

 Related: How do I encourage my employees to adopt lifelong learning?

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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