“The way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers.”
Quote by Richard Branson. Founder of Virgin Group
Many organisations forget that the way they treat their own personnel and the way colleagues interact has a profound effect on the way the organisation is perceived externally.
Having worked with hundreds of businesses, from SME’s to large financial institutions, there is a common thread that the most successful and best performing businesses have and that is a happy, motivated and engaged workforce. Forget the saying ‘Charity starts at home’ and apply the statement ‘Customer service starts at home’ and you have a mantra for business success.
At New Chapter Learning we believe that customer service skills can be distilled under four high level headings. These are termed the 4 A’s. The 4 A’s of Customer Service should be applied internally too and will enable a business to present itself in a way which ensures a higher Net Promoter Score (NPS) with its customers.
The 4 A’s stand for Appearance, Attention, Attitude and Accuracy, and whilst these are often applied purely as outward looking standards to help promote a business and improve customer service, they also underpin the internal customer service which is needed. Looking at each of the 4 A’s there are very simple ways an organisation can improve its internal processes which will generate big external impacts.
Appearance – First impressions count as much internally as externally. When a colleague approaches you for help, the way you deal with that request immediately creates either resistance or a positive outcome. The colleague who sighs, pulls a face and makes a fuss when asked to support a colleague, is something we have probably all experienced, but this is a first impression that can cause long term damage.
For many organisations, where teams must work together to help their customers, the way colleagues deal with each other can really impact on the final service they deliver. If your appearance to your colleagues is open, helpful and willing to support, then the really big gains come from an improved communication flow, which leads automatically to a better service.
Attention – Have you ever sat near a colleague who is always reading their texts, checking their emails or sorting through an in tray whilst you are trying to explain something of importance? This creates one of the most frustrating internal blockages to good communications internally.
A sales person would never dream of ignoring a customer who was talking to them by checking their mobile, or need to have requests repeated to them because they just weren’t listening. However, with colleagues, this approach can be common place. Good internal attention requires colleagues to focus on their workmates and listen and respond. Simple good manners translates into really well motivated teams and managers who are seen as positive and focused.
Accuracy – How easily do your colleagues find it to provide half answers to questions, or provide out of date information, because they cannot be bothered to search out the accurate information. The idea that you are being ‘efficient’ if you pass someone onto another contact who you ‘think’ knows the answer is nearly always doomed to failure.
Efficiency and shifting responsibility for providing the best and most accurate information are often confused. Great internal customer service puts an emphasis on finding the information or supplying the knowledge your colleagues need to get their jobs done. Accuracy is your communication, saves time, means you can deal with more enquiries and most importantly demonstrates a professionalism which creates loyalty and respect.
Those who demand respect because of position, but don’t demonstrate accuracy in their approach to their colleagues, rarely achieve the respect they crave, and this will always become evident to the external customer.
Attitude – Companies spend billions each year on promotion of their brand and creating an external perception and appearance of a business. This is undermined completely when the personnel of that organisation do not reflect the values of the business. Poor motivation and negative attitudes towards colleagues can really hamper the business chances of success.
If your colleagues show a disrespectful attitude towards the business, the likelihood that they will adopt similar traits towards their customers are significantly increased. In a business climate where change is now a regular occurrence within companies and long term security is no longer assured, it is obviously a major challenge to keep employees fully supportive of an organisation, but with good internal mechanisms and a ‘positive, can do’ attitude shown at all levels, then the external perception of a business is hugely reinforced. The marketing spend is always better value, when the company representative espouse the same positive views.
This use of internal customer service has in many ways been the biggest factor in a successful NPS score. When a customer arrives with a high expectation, the nuances of customer service are never lost, and having a customer service which is driven from a good internal application of the 4 A’s makes the likelihood of a high NPS much more realistic.
Businesses spend huge sums of money advertising their services, and focus heavily on their external customer service. The only way of guaranteeing long term success is to remember that the internal team requires the same clear focus and a customer service drive to reinforce all this hard work.
New Chapter Learning are a Customer Experience and Training Consultancy giving your customers a reason to love you. http://www.newchapterlearning.co.uk
Michelle Holmes is a Director of New Chapter Learning Ltd, a Customer Experience and Training consultancy based in the UK. Having spent 26 years in banking she decided to use her expertise in Training and Customer Service to set up her own training consultancy in 2012.