Way Is The Highway
So Super About Collaboration?
Trying To Be Friendly And Courteous
How do we define good customer service? We all have our own ideas of what it should be, but is your organization consistently delivering the kind of customer service you envision?
In the past, companies have assessed customer service professionals performance using subjective definitions of what constitutes good customer service. Determining a service professionals performance becomes difficult when the criteria is that he or she must be responsive, friendly and courteous, states Grace Major, president and founder of Sigma International, Inc., a training and consulting firm based in Fairfax, Va. which specializes in relationships between service professionals and customers.
Lesser of Two Evils
A systematic approach, Major argues, is the most logical and efficient way to measure customer service. And the best way to achieve a systematic approach is by implementing Service Proficiency Checklists. A Service Proficiency Checklist allows your company to:
With clear definitions of what it means to achieve these conversation objectives, your organization can systematically determine if its service professionals are meeting your objectives. Most organizations focus on: assessing the customers needs, defusing anger or recognizing additional needs for services.
To introduce Service Proficiency Checklists, Major recommends addressing one customer service proficiency at a timedefining this element and teaching service professionals how to incorporate it. Attempting to address too many proficiencies at once can result in sensory overload for service professionals.
Once the target proficiency is identified, you must define the criteria for what should happen in the course of the conversation in order for this proficiency to occur. The criteria can include conversational characteristics, specific behaviors or performance traits. Also, it is important that the criteria should be observable, objective and discrete, enabling an observer to watch a service provider and assess whether the person did or did not produce a certain behavior.
Next, compile a master list of the ideal observable behaviors that must and may occur when the target proficiency is delivered. This list becomes the basis for determining whether a service professional is performing to standards and is used in each service professionals assessment. Development of the checklist entails setting a minimal performance standard by deciding which of the ideal behaviors are included.
Then, the list of observable behaviors must be segmented
into two groups: compulsory and non-compulsory. The compulsory items should
contain a few key behaviors that must occur for the desired proficiency
to be met. For example, you may determine that in order to assess a customers
needs it is absolutely necessary for the customer service professional to
acknowledge the concerns voiced by the customer when given an opportunity.
The non-compulsory behaviors are things that help to achieve the target
proficiency, but do not always have to occur. Next, determine how many of
the non-compulsory items must occur along with the compulsory items for
the proficiency to be delivered. Major recommends a list of approximately
five compulsory items and 15 non-compulsory items.
For the system to work and to reduce subjectivity, the Service Proficiency Checklist must be tested on at least 20 different interviews with several assessors for the system to work. The goal is for each assessor to reach a similar conclusion about each behavior listed on the checklist and the interview in general. For the Service Proficiency Checklist to work effectively a high level of reliability in the assessors is needed. Assessors should maintain:
The final step for developing an effective measurement system is to educate the service professionals on the key ingredients of a proficient conversation. By letting the service professionals know what items are on the checklist, they have a better idea of what is expected of them and how to do their job. It is also important to ensure that the service professionals immediate supervisors believe in and will enforce the program. The supervisors immediate everyday feedback provides the service professionals with the coaching necessary to sustain and continually improve the scope of their proficiencies.
For the Record
When recorded actual conversation cannot be used, most assessment resort to the use of simulations, states Jim McCoy of Sigma International. He further explains that the use of simulations is effective because it provides a standard level of complexity and challenge for all service providers.
The rewards of implementing a systematic approach to measuring
customer service in a company are numerous. Service professionals will better
understand their jobs because their roles are identified in clear, objective
and more tangible criteria. Training becomes more productive when there
is a clear understanding of the measurement standards. Managers will become
motivated to coach people in consistent standards. And customers are better