Casting a “Vision” for Customer Service

"Where there is no vision, the people perish." – King Solomon

Customer Service training, Quality Assessment, and Call Coaching are great tools for raising the customer experience and improving customer satisfaction. So why do they often create so much internal confusion, frustration, and irritation? Why is it so hard to get people to care?

I think wise King Solomon made a good point. You’ve got to have a vision for why you’re doing it and see the forest for the trees. Someone in management needs to keep their eyes on the big picture of what the team is trying to accomplish, constantly keep that vision in front of people at every level of the organization, and make sure that the vision is not lost in the day-to-day operations and machinations of the program. Otherwise, it becomes easy for QA to become nothing more than a legalistic list of meaningless checkmarks to the front-line. It becomes easy for supervisors to subvert objectivity and "give the CSR a break" because they don’t see the point in arguing the matter. It become easy for managers to manage to a number rather than care about what the number actually represents.

So what do you do?

  • Make the customer part of your vision. Give constant reminders of what drives your customer’s satisfaction (if you don’t know what drives your customer’s satisfaction when they call – find out). Make actual customer feedback a key part of training, coaching and internal communications.
  • Manage to customer expectations. It’s easy to default to an attitude of "that’s just the way we want it done so DO IT!" Sometimes it becomes a "you better get this SCORE or else!" But that doesn’t always motivate well. People need to know the "why", and they want to be part of something larger and more meaningful than getting a score. Walt Disney didn’t say "I want employees to be nice, clean, and well-behaved". He said he wanted "to make millions of people happy". Which do you think is more inspiring to a Disney cast member? When coaching or training, always refer to how a particular behavior or skill will positively impact the customer.
  • Repeat. Many companies launch a QA or Customer Service initiative with a big meeting, some cool trinkets and a few posters thrown up on the wall. Two weeks later everyone has forgotten what you said in the meeting. The posters have been replaced by the latest HR notices and the trinkets are either broken, tossed, or thrown in the back of a desk drawer. People need to hear it. They need to hear it again. Then they need it said a different way. One of the important components of casting a vision for your team includes the responsibility to cast that vision again, and again, and again.

  6 comments for “Casting a “Vision” for Customer Service

  1. January 24, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    Here, Here Tom. I want to “repeat” your last point – “repeat.” Too often leadership gets everyone pumped up about the latest initiative, but then doesn’t follow it through. Repeat THIS pattern often enough, and you become like the boy who cried wolf. Employees think “oh, this will blow over, just like everything else” and don’t take the message to heart.
    Choose a message and mission that resonates, get everyone on board, and then see it through. Your results will be better than the rest (and unfortunately, most) who jump on every bandwagon but never complete a song.
    Thanks for the great post!

  2. January 27, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    “But there’s no substitute for getting smarter faster. And the way you get smarter is to screw around vigorously. Try stuff. See what works. See what fails miserably. Learn. Rinse. Repeat.”
    –Tom Peters, quoted in “Fast Company” Dec. 2001.

  3. January 30, 2008 at 6:05 am

    Hi Tom,
    Another translation of the verse from Solomon is “Where there is no vision the people cast off restraint.”
    Without a plan, consistency in making that plan a reality and accountability, call centers become a horrible place to work.
    The call center I came from was reactive. When they tried to be proactive we all knew that it would not last and within a month old habits would rule.
    Its a shame, because call center workers are like kids, they actually want rules that they can count on, and not have to figure everything out by trial and error.

  4. January 31, 2008 at 2:38 am

    Right, every endeavor should start with a vision. And I believe after the vision is to develop the service standards. I read it in the Unleashing Excellence (in customer service) that service standards guide your people in providing exceptional customer service. Without the standards, each CSR will have his own idea of pleasing or satisfying a customer. Good points, Tom! 🙂

  5. January 31, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Vision is something that carries every business from “good” to “Great”.
    I also like that last point you made: Repeat. Reminding yourself and your employees of the vision keeps everyone in check. Even the best of us forget why we’re in business.

  6. January 31, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    4 Must-Read Customer Service Blog Posts

    My Customer Service folder in my feed reader is overflowing with excellent customer service articles, so I thought Id share some interesting reads with you… Glenn Ross shares with us the three levels of customer service. Can yo…

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