Last week we asked how well you know your customers. This week we're going to use that information to write a customer service policy.
Do you have a customer service policy in place? Do you think you need one? If you have a customer service policy, is it current to your customer base? Does it still apply? When was the last time you read it?
As your business grows, so does the need to set guidelines, policies, rules. You want to present a united front, a consistent product or service, and you want that to be the case for every interaction with every customer and every employee. Writing out policies doesn’t have to be viewed as a hateful task. It’s simply a way for everyone within the organization to be on the same page. A way to effectively communicate within your company, even when you’re not there, and a way to effectively set expectations.
- Does your company have a vision statement? You’ll want to use that to develop the vision statement for your customer service policy. It should be simple and direct. How do you want your employees to interact with your customers? How do you want your customers to feel about their interaction with your company? Does your vision statement reflect your vision today? Next year? Five years from now?
- Set quantifiable goals based on the research you learned in my blog, “Do You Know Your Customer?” Some examples might be; All calls must be answered within 30 seconds, 100% satisfaction rate on the handling of customer complaints, No backorders older than 4 weeks.
- Write policies that are simple, friendly, and straight forward. And then review them on a regular basis. Which policies are being met? Which ones are proving most troublesome? What do your employees think about the policies? What suggestions do they have to change or alter them? What are their solutions?
- When creating your customer service policy, keep in mind the goals you created for your company and use those as a guide. Once written, look at it from a customer point of view. Think about:
- The product/service overview – does the customer know what you’re selling.
- Ease and speed of ordering – is it painless.
- Sharing information – how do you inform your customers of changes, backorders, return and shipping policies, upsells, warranties, accepted forms of payment.
- Follow up and follow through – who do your customers contact for help after their purchase, how do you share the shipping/delivery timeline with them.
- Address complaints – are they handled immediately? Do the employees have the tools and empowerment to problem solve effectively? (If they are constantly needing approval when offering different solutions, they are not empowered.) When and how do you follow up with the customer to confirm their complaint was handled to their satisfaction?
- Customer retention – are you forming long term relationship with your customers? What needs to happen for that to be the case?
- Employee satisfaction – A happy employee is your best tool. How do you encourage your employees to provide top notch customer service? Do you share negative and positive feedback with them? Do they get rewarded for doing a good job?
- Let’s go back to the employee empowerment question for a minute. How empowered are your employees to resolve issues? Do you remember the story of Zappos' customer service policy? Their employees were told to do whatever they needed to do to make the customer happy, no matter what it was. And as a result they had the best customer service in the industry. When Amazon acquired them, they kept their customer service policy. Did some customers take advantage of this? I’m sure, although I haven’t searched for any documentation on it. But more importantly, they gained the best reputation for customer service. And their sales grew and grew.
Empowering your employees with your customers has a two fold result. (1) Your employees feel ownership in the company they work for, making them vested, happier, and more anxious to find solutions. (2) Your customers are happier. They’re dealing with a happy employee, they feel listened to and understood. They don’t have to wait for a call back or get passed from person to person while their issue is resolved and repeating their story 15 times over. We’ve all had that experience, and let’s face it, it’s one of the worst.
- Train your employees. Now that you’ve developed a formal policy for handling customers, make sure every single employee is trained on your expectations.
Stay tuned for the next blog when I talk about the importance of evaluating your customer service.