Everyday leadership: Customer communication is important

A few years ago I held a couple of sessions on customer service communication for a client. We have all experienced good and poor customer communication in our daily interactions. Most customer service is average in quality. However, we tend to remember those disrespectful experiences and talk about them to others. There are companies that I refuse to do business with because they didn’t seem to care about my needs. I am sure you too have made similar decisions.

I asked my session participants what poor customer service behaviors they had experienced. They listed:

¯ Didn’t take time to listen.

¯ Dismissed my needs.

¯ Argued with me.

¯ Took too long to acknowledge me.

¯ Had a disrespectful tone.

On the other hand, good customer service behaviors included:

¯ Acknowledged me quickly.

¯ Was patient and calm.

¯ Was knowledgeable.

¯ Followed through with commitments.

¯ Called me at home to see if their service or product had worked.

¯ Gave me a warning to help me avoid a mistake.

Next we discussed how people make us, the customer, feel important. The list included:

¯ Used my name.

¯ Nodded his or her head.

¯ Shook my hand.

¯ Made eye contact.

¯ Smiled.

¯ Thanked me.

¯ Asked about my needs.

¯ Listened to me.

I asked the session participants to choose two of the positive behaviors around which to set goals and make a commitment as to when they would use them and how often they would practice them.

We continued by identifying questions to assess the customer’s needs and help solve the customer’s problem. Finally, we described statements that successfully wrap up the customer interaction. Again, I asked the participants to set goals around more effective customer questioning and wrap-up statements.

All of these behaviors are important to the success of any organization. If you think about it, we all deal with customers. Some of us interact with the end user, which is critical to the organization’s viability. Others of us deal with internal customers. Material moves across a plant from raw material inventory to various departments who all add value and then to shipping. Service organizations have processes that pass through several departments.

Internal customer communication is as important as external customer communication. If I, as an employee, make sure I understand the needs of the next person in the process, the needs of the external customer are met more efficiently, competently and professionally. Disagreements, ill will or poor communication between departments must be addressed as soon as possible. I have had clients say to me, “Yes, we don’t get along with those people in that department but customers never know it.” When I explain the many ways poor internal communication can impact the external customer, most agree that it is a problem.

We all know good customer service when we receive it. However, we tend to remember poor customer service much longer. Good leaders spend time talking about how to improve customer service in their departments or across departments within the organization. The payback will positively impact the bottom line of the organization.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s new book, “And my Brother Jack: Everyday Leadership Lessons,” visit his website, raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.

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