We’ve entered into one of our busiest periods at the moment, and we’ve worked hard on planning and preparation to ensure that we deliver the best possible experience, despite the volumes of work. A key part of that preparation is thinking about the customer facing people, and how ready they are for the extra work. I reflected on the additional training and coaching we’ve carried out, and it occurred to me that done well, it’s a bit like equipping your teams with superpowers to enable them to deliver the best experience. So here’s the 5 superpowers I believe a busy customer facing team needs.
1. Nimbleness: We talk a lot about speed these days, but if you look up the word nimble, it conveys something a whole lot more powerful. Quick, agile, light – it suggest speed, but with a greater degree of smart thinking. We know that across any industry, there’s a direct link between speed to answer and dissatisfaction, but a well-equipped team plans not just for the initial response, but the follow-up, the resolution and the escalation times, too. Recognise, too, that age-old call centre response times are no longer relevant to the man and woman on the street – no-one expects to wait a day to get a reply on emails – so give equal weight to your focus and measurement on timings across the whole duration of your customer interaction.
2. Reliability: The best experiences don’t always have to blow us out of the water on every occasion. In fact, we sometimes shoot ourself in the foot if we consistently deliver above and beyond on every occasion. Customers are paying for consistency, they expect predictable outcomes. If you deliver my pizza in 20 minutes for 3 weeks, then take 60 minutes the next week, I won’t be impressed, even if you beat your 60 minute SLA for 3 weeks in a row. It’s really important in your planning that you think about your reliability, and make sure you can measure it to help you spot training and process gaps.
3. Honesty: No matter how busy you are, taking time to manage customer expectations (both internal and external) will buy you a little breathing space. Being a real human being with your customers, showing empathy for their situation but clearly explaining why it might take longer than expected will help keep customers on side. No-one wants to hear how bad your systems are, but they will invariably respond better if you tell them that this kind of request typically takes 2-3 days to process, and you’ll do your best to do it quicker if you can. Arming your people with the right honest answers (practised in role plays and team exercises before your busiest times) will help them stay calm and continue to maintain customer trust.
4. Effectiveness: Effortless customer experiences support habit formation by customers. Even when they need your help during the customer experience, this logic still applies. How easy are you to get hold of? Do you measure your customer effort score? How much does it vary between normal and busy periods? Think about HOW your customer wants to contact you (the channels), WHEN your customer wants to contact you (the operating hours) and WHAT the customer is trying to do (self service is our friend!) If you focus on effectiveness, you focus on getting the task done properly. Don’t cut corners to meet your internal measures – making customer re-contact you will only drive up dissatisfaction and will ultimately cost your business more.
5. Empowerment: It’s best superpower you can bestow on customer facing teams! Give them the authority and access to do their job unimpeded, and trust them to do the right thing (you can always have checks and balances in place to weed out any bad eggs.) This drives quicker resolutions, new ideas, happy customers and happier team members. Happier team members deliver a friendlier more human experience and customer expectations are easier to manage. Empowered individuals take ownership of issues and make sure they get resolved or escalated quickly. This is the single biggest way to help your teams manage surging volumes, but it takes a lot for managers to step back and truly unshackle their teams. Plan ahead, and be willing to place your trust in those who deliver the experience.
I’m sure many of you reading this article tick most or all of the boxes, so I’d be interested to hear what superpowers you bestow on your customer teams. Why not leave a comment and share what superpower matters most to your team?