Being a Customer Service First Responder

As a customer, have you ever experienced the following:

  • Waiting for people to get back with you on a request or question you submitted.
  • Having to dial through an endless phone tree to find the correct department, only to be transferred to yet another agent for answers.
  • Being told by an employee that they “don’t work in this department”.
  • Experiencing a “We don’t handle that” or “We’re just the vendor”.

We all hate service run arounds. Providing exceptional customer service requires anticipating and providing solutions so the customer doesn’t have to experience any runarounds. Great organizations have plans in place when people need to get to the right employee, department, or answer. Let’s look at a responsive, as well as, proactive approach.

A Responsive Approach–Passing the Baton

What do you do when you receive communications on a subject that has nothing to do with your area of responsibility? As customers interact with you via phone, text, or e-mail, your greatest responsibility should be to satisfy the customers needs by following through to get them not only in the hands of of the right responder, but to make sure their concerns are truly resolved. This understanding will only occur through adequate training and predetermined procedures.

A common analogy is that of handing off a baton at a track meet.

If your customer is the baton, don’t you have a responsibility to make sure that the handoff gets into the right hands? Absolutely! But runners don’t go to an event, hand off the baton, and then go home. They see that baton through until the end of the race, cheering on their teammates. As employees, you need to do the same when working with your customers.

How do you do this? Consider the following:

  1. Understand the Need. When first communicating with the customer, clarify their needs. Restate what you believe they are asking. There is nothing worse than sending them off in the wrong direction.
  2. Assure the Customer. If you don’t have the complete answer, explain to the party involved that you aren’t the best employee for dealing with their issue, but that you will do everything in your power to make sure they get the right answer from the right person.
  3. Share Information. Clarify their contact information, to include, name, phone number, e-mail address, etc.  Make sure the customer is aware of the best methods for reaching you.
  4. Provide a Time Table. If the situation requires further investigation, indicate a probable time that you will be able to provide them a solution. Explain that even if there is not a solution to the situation, the customer will receive a call back.  In the interim, re-invite the customer to reach out if they have any additional information, questions, or insight.
  5. Follow Up. Find the people who can support that customer. Share the need with that other employee. Invite the other employee to follow up with you as to what happens. Let the employee know that you will follow up with the customer as well to let them know who they need to reach out to, and to make sure that they are satisfied by their need at the end of the experience.

These five steps will help insure that the baton isn’t drop. Does it take time? Yes! Can being the one passing the baton all the time become frustrating? Sure! That’s why focusing on  preventive measures should be a high priority.  Let’s look at that.

A More Proactive Approach

Part of what emergency first responders do is to help create the right conditions so that no one needs help. Making sure that roads are safe for driving, that people don’t injure themselves, is part of the role of paramedics, police and fire personnel. So it is with organizations. How can you make sure that people get to right place the first time, rather than ending up in interactions where you are constantly having to pass the baton. This is especially true with Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

Here are some suggestions for being more proactive and getting the word out:

  • Measure. Identify the most frequent concerns. Get those addressed first and communicated first so customers don’t have to reach out to you.
  • Communicate Direct to Customer. How can you get more information, organized more succinctly, in the hands of your customers so they don’t need to reach out to you?
  • Utilize Technology. How can you use apps, online sites, and social media platforms to make it easier for people to get the information they need without having to go through your personnel.
  • Identify Wrong Turns. Where are customers going in the wrong direction to get the help and assistance they need? Address those forks in the road, and make sure customers are going to the right support when needed.
  • Consider a one-stop location. Could there be a phone number and/or Twitter feed that could be manned by highly trained individuals. This could also be the individual or team that addresses the other proactive solutions mentioned above.

Key Take Aways

Consider for yourself the following:

  • What service process in our organization requires streamlining so that customers aren’t helpless in getting the support they need?
  • How have we set the expectation that we must take the responsibility to follow through on calls, rather than passing it off to others?
  • How are we training and holding accountable our employees to carry the baton through a completed customer service experience?
  • How do we communicate those one-stop service solutions so that both the customer and employee know where to go?
  • How are we utilizing technology to create efficiencies?

We have some great examples of the concepts shared here, especially as they relate to offering a more proactive approach. Visit World Class Benchmarking for examples in the public sector of being a first responder. Look to Disney at Work for examples of how Walt Disney World gets the right information into the right people’s hands. Each set of articles offers great ideas for you to consider.

Service heroes respond first. So be a hero by being a great first responder. But be a smart hero by making sure you reduce the number of times your organization must respond to a customer that is lost in their efforts to find solutions.

Want to know more about addressing processes that affect the customer experience? Just contact us! We promise you’ll be in the hands of the right person who can hear your concerns and help you find the right solutions to providing a great customer experience. Contact us!

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