By James Black June 16, 2011
The most important thing I can tell you about customer service is companies that “do it differently” are the ones that stand out. The companies that make it easy to get a hold of a real person without constrictive menus and button punching are the ones that make instant connections and positive impressions.
In business, everyone should have a basic understanding of customer service and what it entails. Everyone from the CEO to the guy sorting the mail should know how to interact with customers. When I started AccuConference, I decided to build the company not just around offering great conferencing products, but also around the idea that customer service is not a “department.” I took the complaints that I had as a customer of various businesses and crafted a different experience.
I threw out the standard concepts of customer service and replaced them with what I feel are comprehensive philosophies.
1. Customer service is everyone’s job
No matter what position a new employee is hired for (marketing, sales, billing), the first two weeks are spent taking customer calls. Everyone in our company is responsible for customer service, even if they suspect they’ll never have to speak to a customer.
2. We have one department
Billing, sales, general product questions, demos and any other needs our clients have can be handled by anyone they speak with. This eliminates the need to transfer customers around, and customers’ questions are answered as quickly as possible.
3. We burned up the scripts
Rather than have our employee/customer interactions restricted by scripts, we train everyone to use good judgment when making decisions. This gives customer service the freedom to ask questions, get more information and establish a friendly rapport with customers.
4. We got rid of automated menus
Calling any of our numbers will result in you talking to a real human in seconds. (Don’t believe me? Call us.800-977-4607)
5. We got rid of time limits
Some customer service departments monitor or penalize representatives who spend too long on the phone. Our representatives spend as much or as little time on the phone as the customer needs. Some people may need an hour-long demo, while others need to have a conference call in 15 minutes.
6. We ask our employees how to make it better
Once a quarter, we meet with everyone to get ideas on how to make the customer experience better. One of these meetings revealed that the staff wanted to re-word a display on our site for a product that has an extra charge. The text was rewritten, updated and now there is even more clarity about what our customers are requesting.
7. We send important customer notes to everyone
At least once a day, representatives send out e-mails concerning important calls from that day. These e-mails are seen by the entire company and give everyone the power to “run information up the flag pole” when they feel it’s important.
8. We are available any time
There’s no such thing as “normal business hours.” Everyone in our office has full access to me and the VPs and is welcome to pop into our offices to ask questions. Since our customer service hours continue even when we are not “in the office,” representatives have our personal cell phone numbers and the standing permission to call us.
I believe it doesn’t matter if you have 10 employees or 10,000—the people who talk to customers are the most important people in a company. Representatives should feel like they have the ability to help because that makes them want to help. Large or small, a company has to embrace changing service demands from customers and adapt.