Retail Observer

February 2020

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RETAILOBSERVER.COM FEBRUARY 2020 40 John Tschohl Customer Service RO T oo many executives imagine their employees are born with good customer service skills. It's important to develop a process that will give your employees some latitude to serve the customer, along with clear and specific steps to follow when service breaks down. You'll need to empower your employees to make independent decisions and break the rules as may be needed – in short, to do the things most employees have been conditioned against. The workers have been taught that it isn't their job to break routine – even if they deeply want to help the customer, they're frustrated by rigid regulations that prohibit them from walking the last mile. Worse, they don't know how to provide service that goes above and beyond, even if they're offered a free hand to do so. Empowerment is the backbone of service recovery. I've said in my books and seminars, over and over, that it's impossible to become known as a service leader and a customer-centric and service-focused company, without empowering your employees. My definition of "empowerment" is that you give your employees the authority to do whatever it takes, on the spot, to take care of a customer to the customer's full satisfaction, even if it means not to the organization's satisfaction. TIPS FOR PROVIDING AWESOME SERVICE RECOVERY • Act Quickly — The employee at the point of contact can best implement service recovery. Avoid moving problems and complaints up the chain of command. • Take Responsibility — Don't place blame, make excuses or lie to cover up a mistake. Apologize sincerely and thank the customer for pointing out the problem. • Be Empowered — Give those who work with customers the authority to do whatever it takes to ensure customer loyalty. • Compensate — Give the customer something of value. Every organization has something of value that it can give to the customer who has experienced a problem. SERVICE RECOVERY The surest way to recover from service mishaps is for the workers on the front lines to identify and solve the customer's problem. 1. Responding to their needs calmly and emphatically can help gain cooperation from emotionally agitated people. How an issue is handled becomes the actual issue. 2. Empathy is powerful — If a customer expresses anger and you fail to react, they'll feel that they aren't getting through and being heard – that you're just not listening. Think of how you would feel in a similar situation. 3. Ask Questions — Once you have an understanding of the situation, try to avoid making excuses or defending your actions (or those of your team or organization). Ask what you can do to make things right. You need to show the customer that, as an employee and as the face of your organization, you're invested in solving the problem. 4. Suggest Alternatives — Find out what the customer wants from you. You want to keep nudging the situation along in a productive way. After the customer expresses what he or she wants, decide what you're able to do, and say so. Think outside the box. You can stay within your organization's guidelines and still come up with an alternative. They'll view it as a sign of respect, and an indication that you are listening to their specific concerns. 5. Apologize — Say "I'm sorry." Apologizing without laying blame will position you to act in a manner that your customer will perceive to be in their best interest. 6. Solve the problem — Take into account everything you've learned about the situation as you prepare for this final step. At this time both you and your customer share a strong desire to find a solution. If you need help while you're solving the problem, find it. Regardless of how a problem is solved, getting it done quickly is essential if you hope to bring the customer back. Give the customer your contact information so you can help if they have any further questions or lingering issues. In my book, Achieving Excellence Through Customer Service, I wrote: "Service is defined by listing its function – maintaining old customers, attracting new customers, and leaving all customers with an impression of the company that induces them to do business with the company again." Expressed in terms of attitude, service is: • Thoughtfulness • Courtesy • Integrity • Helpfulness • Efficiency • Availability • Friendliness • Knowledge • Professionalism You are your brand…act like it. Every customer experience either weakens or strengthens that brand. SERVICE RECOVERY— PREVENTING CUSTOMER LOSS John Tschohl is a professional speaker, trainer, and consultant. He is the president and founder of Service Quality Institute — the global leader in customer service — with operations in over 40 countries. John speaks more than 50 times each year and is considered one of the foremost authorities on service strategy, success, empowerment and customer service. John's monthly strategic newsletter is available online at no charge. Contact John on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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