Whether you're in the private or public sector, your very existence will ultimately depend on whether you meet the needs of the customer. This is not always understood in the public sector, where customers are sometimes taken for granted. Increasingly, departments that are failing to live up to the expectations of customers are finding themselves downsized and their services outsourced to the private sector, where accountability seems to be greater. Here are some very important facts to bear in mind in considering the quality of the services you currently provide:
Build relationships with customers. Word-of-mouth advertising is far more effective than other forms. Promote word of mouth by exceeding people's expectations at every opportunity.
Always strive for exceptional service. Always focus on how you and your teammates can meet customers' needs.
Make customer issues the highest priority in your team meetings.
What do they like?
What would they like to see change?
Do other service providers provide other or better services?
Remind yourself and your colleagues about the importance of customers by displaying visual cues around the workplace. Post your mission statement, a document outlining what your purpose is; who your customers are; where you operate; how you serve customers; why you do what you do.
Determine what is important for customer satisfaction, such as promptness and quality of service. Display these indicators to remind yourself of the importance of your customers.
Collect data on your team's service performance to encourage your colleagues' sense of responsibility.
Ask your customers for feedback on the effectiveness of your service. Use written surveys or personal interviews, analyze the data, and determine what your priorities should be. Get your whole team to participate in making suggestions for and implementing change.
Help create a positive environment for your colleagues, since the best guarantee of great service is high morale among your team members. They will feel encouraged if they are listened to, kept informed, and recognized for achievement.
Find out about, and make sure everyone knows, your organization's minimum standards for customer service. And make sure your colleagues know why these standards are important.
Improve customer service by learning how to handle difficult customers; how to listen; what customers want; how to solve customer problems; telephone skills.
Clarify the level of power you and your team members have to make necessary decisions. Ensure that your team has guidelines and training that will equip it to solve customer problems quickly and effectively.
Seek from your boss the authority you need to solve customer problems. Once you have proved that you can use this responsibility wisely and effectively, ask for increased power to act on your own.
Treat angry customers with empathy. Viewing the situation from the customer's perspective will increase your enthusiasm for dealing with problems without focusing on the customer's behaviour.
Give your home phone number to customers, but only when this action will not be misunderstood. Show them you care by encouraging them to call if they need help outside business hours.
Encourage people in your team to benchmark the team's effectiveness. Compare your procedures and performance with those of other departments and organizations involved in similar activities. You can learn a great deal from this process, especially when the other group is very different from your own.