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# 19298 12-Feb-2008 12:49
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After reading some threads on there about poor Customer Support, and having worked in and around Customer Support for a few years this is my take on what companies should be doing from a management point of view to ensure Exceptional Customer Support:

1) Empower your employees to make decisions for themselves:
There is nothing more frustrating when speaking to a CSR than to learn that they are not able to help you because they do not have 'access' or authority to action what needs to be done. Giving your frontline CSRs the power to do anything they need to do without escalation or approval will result in a much happier customer. Of course appropriate internal controls need to be in place to ensure that staff do not abuse the power you give them.

2) All CSR's were not created equal: Set appropriate and fair individual KPI's for team members:
Consistency is important so it is vital that your CSR's are performing in as much the same way as possible. KPI's can (and should) range from levels of training and expertise to phone manner and professionalism (and beyond).

3) Invest in some good quality phone equipment:
Your customers don't always call you from the best places. In cars, walking down the street (Particularly troublesome here in Wellington), from a public phone box etc so make sure that you don't compromise the voice quality of the call at your end. Buy good quality, noise cancelling headsets for your staff, avoid VoIP like the plague unless you can absolutely guarantee (Preferably with a good SLA) that call quality is not being compromised (Slingshot, take note here). You need to be able to understand your customers, and they need to be able to understand you. Poor quality headsets + bad lines + language barriers and accents can make for a very unhappy customer even with the best CSR on the other end. 

4) The hold button:
Several points here: Make sure your CSR's know how to appropriately use the hold button. Customers dislike being on hold. Make the experience better for them by firstly giving them a rough (But preferably accurate) idea of how long they should expect to be on hold. Secondly, keep them on hold for as short a time as possible. When they come off hold, don't apologise for keeping them on hold - thank them for waiting instead, it's much more positive. As well as the CSR's needing to know how to use hold effectively, they need to know when to use it. Putting a customer on hold while you quickly action something on their account etc is not cool. Talk to them, let them know how what you are actioning is progressing, ask them about their day etc. Finally, make sure your hold music is appropriate and pleasant. I'd been on hold to a company and had Eminem songs blaring down the handset. While Eminem doesn’t particularly bother me, if it were my grandmother on the phone this would be a very different story. Also make sure the levels are appropriate. Volume-level the audio so it is consistent and test it from a number of phones to make sure it is not too loud or too quiet. Those of you who have called Vodafone recently will have noticed that their music is horribly inconsistent in volume and often just turns to static and the volume exceeds what their phone system was designed for. This is not a pleasant thing to listen to. 

5) Treat your CSR's well:
Find out what the industry is paying and make sure you are not giving your CSR's the raw deal. There are plenty of CSR jobs out there and changing employer is often not overly difficult. If you have a CSR star, pay them well. An extra $1 or $2 an hour is a good way to ensure your star performer doesn’t run off to the competition next week, and as they are performing well, it's money well spent. A happy CSR is a productive CSR. I have seen all too many managers who just treat their staff like absolute crap. Abusing a team member is never appropriate, especially in front of their peers. If there are issues, deal with them in a private and professional way. This means you are much more likely to be able to drive home tonight with your windscreen intact and have a full team of staff the next morning. Plus your team will have a greater respect for you (Which of course is vital in being an effective manager). 

6) Recognise and reward good work:
This doesn’t have to be monetary (Although it can be a good investment when used appropriately) but people like to know when they have done good. This can be a simple "I liked the way you handled that situation, keep up the good work" or Pizza Hut for lunch on you. If your staff feel appreciated they will be much more productive, much more interested in the job, and much less likely to leave (and staff turnover is expensive). 

7) Have your CSR's back:
If you are doing a good job, your employees will be well trained and won't make too many mistakes. Ultimately however we are all human and mistakes do happen. If you are landed with an escalated situation, do what you need to do to make it right, but don't blame the CSR who made it, especially not to the staff member and especially especially not to the customer. Instead use the situation to show the customer the exceptional customer service you can give when there is a screw up, I think L.V. Martin was right on the money when he coined "It's the putting right that counts". Internally, take the situation as an opportunity to improve the CSR's skill set. Dragging them over the coals won't help them deal with the situation any better next time. 

8) Hire Appropriately:
Being a CSR can be a somewhat generic skill, but to be a good CSR you need to innately understand the business and how it runs. Make sure the candidate has the required propensity to learn required to do the job properly in a reasonable amount of time. You should have a 3 interview minimum, the first to get to know them and assess their suitability for the job based on experience, education etc. If they make it to the second, run them through some real world situation and see what they come up with. This is a really good way to assess how well they can think on their feet and creatively come up with solutions to problems. It's also a good way to test their business sense. It's no good hiring someone who can think on their feet and make the customer really happy when they are losing you money through poor business sense. Finally, if they make it to Interview 3, peer interview them with some of your team. Use this to see how well they fit with the culture of the company. It's probably not going to work very well if you hire someone, for example, who is very conservative when the rest of your team are as laid back as a cat in the sun. 

9) Ownership:
This ties in with some of the other points above. Creating a culture of ownership is in my view, and essential part of a good CSR team. People who know they must take ownership of their actions are much more likely to do the right thing. For example, if a CSR screws up, teach them what they did wrong, how it should be done, and then have them fix the situation (See Point No. 7) - this way they will do it right next time. This has to be managed effectively however, (See Point No. 5) Ownership of good work however is a really powerful thing, as it creates pride in their work, directly influencing their job satisfaction. 

10) Maintain an appropriate management relationship:
There is a fine line here. On one hand, if you are too friendly with your staff they will start losing respect for you (And your authority). On the other hand, if you are cold and unapproachable (Or worse, unfriendly or nasty) then they will lose respect for you. A good manager should be approachable, fair and well tempered, but not your best mate. For example it's probably not a good idea to hit the town with your staff every Saturday night.

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  # 110129 12-Feb-2008 18:35
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Did you have a bad experience on the phone to the helpdesk?

Good points though.



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  # 110134 12-Feb-2008 18:39
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to which helpdesk?


 
 
 
 


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  # 110167 12-Feb-2008 20:31
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Im going to show this to my boss.. Cheers

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