Webinar Recap: Your Customer Service Questions Answered

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I recently hosted an "Ask Me Anything" webinar.

The idea was to answer participants' questions about helping customer service employees deliver outstanding service. My new book, Getting Service Right, shares solutions to many customer service challenges, but there are still more to overcome.

This post is a recap of the questions and my responses.

But first, a small confession. The webinar wasn't recorded due to a technical issue. It was configured to record, but the recording didn't take.

IT professionals would consider this a PEBCAC fault. That is, "Problem Exists Between Chair and Computer." In other words, I didn't launch the webinar properly so the recording could be saved.

Title slide for Ask Me Anything webinar.

Q: How do you teach [employees] to focus on the customer at hand and not focus on the volume of calls ringing in?

Employees tend to focus on what their boss focuses their attention on. 

Some contact center agents are still held to a standard for how long their average call can last. Even if they’re not, you’ll likely find a wall board that displays the number of calls in queue and how long they've been on hold. Displaying the queue naturally causes employees to focus on call volume, often at the expense of paying attention to the customer they're currently serving.

The solution? Stop putting the queue in front of employees. Let that be something the manager worries about, and encourage agents to focus on serving one customer at a time.

Q: How do you get people to think deeper about the impact of service when they feel like they're already doing it well?

Thanks to an odd quirk called the Dunning Krueger Effect, people tend to overrate their knowledge and ability. I even shared this example about an employee who loudly tried to blame her coworkers for a failed mystery shop, when she was the one who actually failed.

You can counter this with a dose of reality. 

Start by establishing what great performance looks like. Employees often think they're doing better than they really are because there's no benchmark for great work. 

The next step is to clearly identify the gap between what the employee is doing versus what the employee should be doing. Even better if you can help your employee self-identify this gap.

Finally, invite employees to describe how they can make an even bigger impact in the future.

Q: Are surveys and other feedback methods becoming obsolete since social media gets a quicker response?

Not at all!

There are three things to consider here. First, surveys can be powerful tools if they're used correctly. The challenge is many organizations are using them poorly, which means they deliver very little value. (Tip: I've assembled a survey resource page to help you.)

Second, social media is a terrific way to quickly identify customer sentiment. The challenge is only a small percentage of your customers are sharing feedback on social media. So you'll be missing out on a lot of feedback if you rely on social media alone.

Which brings us to the third consideration. The best customer listening programs include multiple ways of receiving and analyzing customer feedback. The very best source might be the individual interactions you have with customers.

The trick there is finding a way to collect that data in a meaningful way. An easy way to do this is to simply poll frontline employees and ask them to identify the top issues they're hearing. It's not scientific, but their feedback is usually pretty accurate.

Q: How to get internal teams on board with customer service for a shared client(s) when their goal is not service (e.g. production)?

The challenge lies in the question: "their goal is not service."

There will always be tension between customer service and other departments if those departments don't have any goals connected to customers. So the best solution is to create shared customer service goals that everyone can work towards.

That may not always be doable, especially if you aren't in charge of setting goals for those other departments. The alternative is to show those other department leaders how they can achieve their goals by working with you to achieve yours. 

Q: How to handle customer service in a non-profit organization? (less pay for the same work as for profit)

If you're hiring correctly, these employees were willing to accept less money to work for your nonprofit because they cared about the mission. That means the solution is keeping the mission front and center in everything they do.

There's a real risk for nonprofit employees to become transactional in their work, especially if they don't believe what they're doing is making an impact. You can change this by helping them answer three questions:

  1. What is the mission?

  2. What does it mean (in your own words)?

  3. How do you personally contribute?

Q: How do you convince management teams they need lead from the top down?

This is a vexing challenge, and I'll be the first to admit I don't have a foolproof solution.

One approach that does sometimes work is to bring both data and emotion to the conversation. Find hard data to highlight how a different set of decisions or actions can improve results. At the same time, orchestrate ways for leaders to come face-to-face with reality so they can become emotionally invested in the impact of their decisions.

In one of my favorite examples, a client wanted to lease additional office space to accommodate her company's growing employee base. This was a biotech company that spent a great deal of money hiring scientists and medical professionals from around the world. She convinced the CEO to sign off on the new office space by making a solid business case (data) and also having the CEO address a group of new hires who had to cram into a tiny conference room (emotion).

Seeing renowned professionals uncomfortably crammed into a tiny room wasn't the CEO's idea of a great welcome to the company, but she had to experience it herself for the situation to have the appropriate emotional impact.