Tom Peters is mostly associated with managing during bad economic times.  On his site (TomPeters.com) he recently wrote:

“Instant, mindless cutting of R&D or training or salesforce travel in the face of a downturn is often counterproductive–or, rather, downright stupid.  Tough times are in fact golden opportunities to get the drop, and the long term drop at that, on those who respond to bad news by panicky across-the-board slash and burn tactics and moves that de-motivate and alienate the workforce at exactly the wrong moment.”

What stands out to me are:  “…mindless cutting of training, etc.” and these times are ‘golden opportunities.”

Interesting fact:  The Chinese symbol for crisis and opportunity are identical. 

According to a recent survey recently conducted by Tealeaf, a leading customer experience management company, one key element to surviving an economic downturn is excellent customer service. This is a huge opportunity for companies willing to significantly improve their customer service, as this enables you to stand out among your competition.

 

By providing world class customer service, and listening to what the customer needs and wants, you are more able to satisfy your customer’s needs. This allows you to not only retain the loyalty of existing customers, but through positive word-of-mouth, procure new ones without massive spending on marketing and advertising.  

This is vital since these same survey results showed that in the online market in particular, 4 out of 10 people halted all business with a company after just one instance of poor customer service.  A favorite expression (don’t know who said it) you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression!

Back to listening for a minute, which is a major component in communication…I just finished reading A Whole New Mind by Daniel H. Pink.  He reports research from twenty years ago when doctor-patient encounters were videotaped.  They found that the doctors interrupted their patients after an average of 21 seconds.  A more recent study shows that doctors have improved.  It’s not 23 seconds before they interrupt (p. 110).  While we can all probably relate and even chuckle, if we move this to the customer service arena, what happens?  Customers don’t get listened to.  And what do customers want?  What do we all want?  To be treated with dignity and respect, and to be heard!

In today’s world repetitive, routine, ‘just the facts, mam’ issues can be handled through self service usually efficiently and effectively.  Therefore, the more complex, complicated, and excelerated calls are necessitating human contact.  Tools, techniques, common phraseology, and language are just a few requirements for world class customer service. 
Are these taught in school?  No.  These are introduced in customized, live, interactive training sessions delivered in real time.  Is this a cost to bear?  No.  This is about investing in your people.  Usually the lowest paid person has the highest responsibility of contact with the current and potential customers.  There are KPI (Key Performance Indicators) that can be directly positively impacted by customer service skills training.

After all, as you’ve heard me say many times, we, the people, are who make the difference.