Leadership Strategies for Satisfying Customers
- Service & Complaints Guides
- A Practical Guide to Handling Consumer Complaints
- Best Practices in Handling Customer Complaints
- A Guide for Consumer Complaints Management
- 6 Steps to Achieve Customer Service Excellence
"The philosophy indoctrinated by the leaders of the company is that every experience the customer has from the time of initial contact, during purchase, and throughout the life of the product, focuses on complete customer satisfaction. All employees have a part in customer relations and ensuring the best quality service and the best product. The emphasis is 'Customer First'."
Benchmarking Study Partner
There is little question that the leaders in the best-in-business companies see customers as their top priority. The leaders of these organizations practice the following initiatives.
Listen to the Voice of the Customer
One company knew they'd begun to hear the voice of their customers when they went from 10,000 letters a year, mostly complaints, to 4,000 a year, mostly compliments. The leaders followed two simple rules: make it easy for customers to complain and just as easy for employees to fix problems.
The leaders demonstrate their commitment to customer concerns by investing corporate resources--money for tools like state-of-the-art computers and phone systems, and support, training and recognition for their employees. They see their job as making it easier for employees to respond to customers. They partner with organized labor to achieve results. They invest a lot of their own time in communication, talking to customers and employees and recognizing results. They have flattened their organization to cut the number of layers between the customer and the chief executive officer (CEO)--usually no more than three management levels separate the front-line workers from the CEO. Leaders of customer service departments are part of the management team.
In all of the best-in-business organizations, customer complaints are seen as opportunities to improve. How complaints are handled reflects the organizations' overall commitment to customer service. Indeed, customer service is a core value in these organizations, reflected in mission statements, plans, performance measures, budget and personnel decisions and decisions about contractor selection and retention. Leadership communicates their commitment to customers so effectively throughout the organization that the value is pervasive. Customer service does not depend on a single leader; it has been built into the way these organizations do business.
Know That Front-Line Complaint Resolution Saves Time and Money and Improves Customer and Worker Satisfaction
It's not rocket science to realize that solving problems when and where they occur is not only better and faster, it's cheaper. If a teleservice representative or a front desk clerk can solve the problem, it saves time and money. Written complaints are similar. If the person who first reads the letter can solve the problem, it costs less and results in a faster response and fewer follow-up letters and phone calls trying to find out what happened. Audits by Technical Assistance Research Programs, Inc. (TARP) at over a dozen financial service companies shows that poor service and poor customer communication increase the total workload by up to one-third!(3)
Smart CEOs recognize that it makes good business sense to empower front line employees to do what it takes to satisfy customers, by ensuring their front line has the authority, the training and the responsibility for customer recovery. Customer recovery takes a lot of different forms. At one company, front-line employees can offer discount coupons that range in value from twenty to two hundred and fifty dollars. At one government agency, customer representatives can speed up lost refunds or waive penalties that have been inappropriately applied. Sometimes, a careful explanation of the reason for a decision or empathetic listening along with an apology is all that is needed.
Focus on Improving Quality not Dealing with Symptoms
If routine problems are effectively resolved on the front-line, leaders can focus on improving core processes that improve service quality and customer satisfaction. One team member likened the good complaint systems she saw in service organizations to a quality program in a manufacturing plant. "The sooner these companies find out about complaints, the faster the core processes can be improved. Good managers don't play 'gotcha' with employees. They understand that most complaints are due to procedures and policies that don't meet customers' expectations. Best-in-business companies use complaints to find the problems that had somehow been overlooked. They told us that when employees know that the leadership is focusing on doing a good job for the customer rather than on finding someone to blame, fear and resistance go out the window--the employees want to help find and fix the problems so that next time the job is done right the first time."
One of our benchmarking partners goes a step further to involve employees and integrate customer feedback. They try to capture customer satisfaction data from every customer contact. They do not believe that a separate complaint handling system captures the whole picture. Thirty percent of their entire workforce wears the title Customer Service Representative. These representatives record customer contacts on a sophisticated computer system that allows them to code the root cause of any problem or question. This information is fed to a staff that analyzes the data to look for patterns and trends and for ways to make improvements in systems, procedures and training. Senior management uses the feedback for planning and communication with employees.
Another company described the transformation of its own customer operations in three phases. In the first phase, customer complaints were seen as a necessary evil and some customers were considered to be "chronic complainers." In the second phase, the company provided "knee jerk" customer service to pacify complaining customers. Today, the company's response operation not only assures a response in individual cases but collects information and analyzes all customer complaints to understand what underlies them and to identify root causes. When they identify a pattern that is causing problems, they introduce broader changes to remove the cause.
- Satisfying the customer is leaderships top priority.
- Leaders at world-class organizations view customer concerns and complaints as opportunities for improvement, not as problems.
- World-class leaders make sure it is easy for customers to complain and just as easy for employees to solve problems.
- Effective senior management uses customer feedback for planning and communication with employees.
- Well managed customer recovery improves the bottom line.
How Does Your Organization Measure up?
- What has your office done to make sure it listens to the voice of the customer?
- How do the leaders in your organization view complaints?
- How does your organization make it easy for customers to complain?
- What does your organization do to make it easy for employees to solve problems?
Table of Contents
- Executive Summary
- Leadership Strategies for Satisfying Customers
- Information and Analysis
- Human Resource Development and Management
- Managing Customer Expectations and Satisfaction
- Complaint Process Management
- Business Results
- Appendix I: Reinventing Complaint Resolution
- Entire Guide