One of my favorite customer service quotes is by Karl Albrecht, founder of the Aldi supermarket chain, who wisely said, “If you’re not serving the customer, you’d better be serving someone who is.”
It’s easy to understand the need for service skills training for customer service, tech support and sales teams. They interact directly with our customers every day, so companies offer training programs specifically for these teams related to engaging, retaining and providing excellent service. Unfortunately the training is often focused on the external customers with little or no mention of internal ones.
An example of this internal disconnect occurred recently when I monitored a customer service agent answering a call from a company employee. The service agent sighed with frustration, used negative phrases and at times was downright rude to the other employee, “Sue.” The service agent acted as if Sue’s call was an annoyance.
When we coached with the agent and asked her what she heard when listening to the recorded call, she said, “That Sue is so aggravating. She should know the answer instead of calling me.” The agent saw no problem with giving poor service to Sue and even admitting this to us. For this agent, great service was only for those outside of the company walls.
Many businesses also forget to take the steps needed to ensure that ALL employees company-wide understand how their work and communication interactions impact both internal and external customers. Employees who seemingly have little to no direct contact with outside customers, for instance back office administrative or plant personnel, have not been trained to see their part in the customer’s journey with the company. That’s where the value of customer engagement training for all employees comes in.
Management in these administrative or manufacturing areas may understand the customer impacts but their teams often seem to work isolated from the customer experience, customer expectations and the importance of what they do in terms of customer satisfaction. It’s not their fault if these ideas are foreign to them if management doesn’t make the effort to connect the customer engagement dots for them as well.
Customer engagement training is the missing link to connect all of our teams with the importance of service — internally and externally — and proactive communication. They also need coaching from well-trained customer-focused managers and front-line supervisors who understand the part every employee plays in customer satisfaction and retention.
For internal and external customer experience, we should focus on these:
- Be polite and respectful with everyone — Making other employees feel valued will go a long way for respect back from them and also for your reputation throughout your company. Positive and polite attitudes internally affect external customers, too.
- Answer internal calls professionally offering your name and a greeting — I had an agent tell me that they answered their extension, “What do you want now?” thinking it was a work friend and trying to be funny. Unfortunately the caller was a manager from another department using that person’s desk phone. He was not amused.
- Look for opportunities to educate co-workers if they are calling with common questions and issues — Instead of being annoyed by repeat calls, take the time to explain to an employee how the process he/she is calling about works. Take responsibility for things that ultimately affect the customers inside and out.
- Follow-through on your commitments to internal customers, too — Don’t say, “It’s only John. He can wait.” Be on time and schedule their requests and needs on your calendar too.
- Ask internal customers questions to make sure you are clear on needs — One agent told me she doesn’t ask what they want because she KNOWS what they want! She pulls up screens and looks at info while simply saying, “U-huh” to everything the employee is saying without really listening to them. Such assumption of needs is poor service and insulting to others.
- Encourage employees to report internal processes that are hindering great service inside and outside your area — Stop complaining about problems with communication and processes and instead, document the issues along with suggestion on how to improve. Your boss will appreciate solutions instead of just complaining.
Let’s provide all of our employees company-wide with the training and coaching needed to ensure consistent and superior customer experience, whether toward internal or external customers. An added benefit… someone in the plant who is customer-focused and service skilled may be a great fit for that customer service opening in your center!