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Archive for the ‘Customer Service’ Category

The Role Of The Leader In Customer Service

Customer FeedbackIf you are a leader in a larger business or public sector organisation then you are probably not dealing with external clients on a regular basis. It is therefore easy (once you have agreed with them) to leave the policing of your customer service standards to other people. Here is the danger when you do that!

Most leaders are ‘protected’ from bad news by well meaning, junior managers who report only the good things to them. We have seen this time and time again in both the public and private sectors. If you do arrange an ‘inspection’, these are carefully choreographed to ensure you only see what they want you to see!

For me the answer is twofold, firstly there is the ‘communication’ issue to address and secondly the importance of direct ‘customer experience’.

Any true leader is one that gives their staff autonomy and space to achieve agreed tasks. They should not simply attempt to create a carbon copy of themselves. Dialogue must be free and open and yes, that word TRUST is again a vital ingredient.

I use the phrase “Respond, don’t react” a lot when I am training. A response is something positive, thought out and measured. On the other hand a reaction is often negative and with little thought. We are no longer in ancient times when it was customary to execute the bringer of bad news, but some leaders today still ‘react’ to being told bad news in a way that brings similar fear and trepidation.  If you want your people to tell you the truth, then build a reputation for ‘responding’.

Television documentaries like “Back to the Floor” (where senior executives went undercover and took entry level roles within their own organisations) have been great eye openers for all leaders, not only those that took part in the series.  The perception of ‘reality’ at that level, before taking part was vastly different to the real thing due to the ‘rose tinted’ messages they had been getting from their middle management teams.

Here are a few tips for senior leaders on how they can be sure to experience what their client’s experience! Some may sound obvious BUT do you do them?

  • Be a customer! – Telephone in on a regular basis pretending to be a client. How long does the call take to be answered? Was the call answered according to policy? Did the call handler sound as though they genuinely cared about you?
  • Have your home address and a secret private email on your company database to experience what ‘marketing’ you receive. This one can reveal some real ‘shockers’.
  • Take regular unscheduled walks through your customer service offices and just listen to what you hear. If you hear good things then praise publicly and loudly. If you hear issues then report quietly to your manager before you leave.
  • Take an active role in resolving major complaints and call the client yourself rather than delegate to someone junior. In my experience it is easy to ‘turn’ a complainant into a brand ‘advocate’ by handling their complaint efficiently and effectively.
  • Be very clear on what constitutes unacceptable customer service & talk directly to these teams on a regular basis. Explain just why customer service is so important to your organisation?

It may be that you have a dedicated customer service ‘policing team’ and if so that is great. However if you have this team instead of doing the above, you are missing the key point! It is your DIRECT involvement as the ‘leader’ that makes the difference to customer service and this is therefore something you cannot delegate.

Many thanks

Mark Williams

Head of Training


(Image courtesy of 89 Studio at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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How To Create Market Value Through People

Paradoxically, the financial performance of your department or business is not something you should attempt to directly control. It is better achieved by providing superior service to the market place.

Your value in the marketplace is a consequence of energising and focusing employees to create and deliver value.

Don’t manage money. Devote your efforts instead to the things that produce the money within your department.

Those things are the enthusiasm, commitment and drive or the teams that work for and with you.

Your business will have competitors. Who are your greatest competitors? Yes, those who can best complete the work that your clients and prospects want done!!

So what do you need within your business to ensure you beat the competition and provide what your clients need and want? It revolves around this list of desirable (and in some cases, necessary) traits:

Energy, ambition, commitment, passion, enthusiasm, drive, excitement.

When these qualities exist within your team, outperforming the competition becomes easier, because people are willing to bring creative ideas to the workplace and clients will notice the differences that exist between you and the competition.

All too often, managers actually destroy the emotions mentioned above. Think of your daily conversations with your team members. Do they all revolve around getting the numbers in, hitting targets and increasing profits? These are necessary conversations, obviously. But when they become the sole source of inspiration that you use wiyth your people, it drains the spirit, make people myopic and does not encourage creative thinking.

What can you do to encourage your people to add market value every day?

Firstly, build your peoples’enthusiasm for providing quality service at every ‘touchpoint’ they have with the customer. Best quality should be the norm, not a goal.

Then, trust them to bring their best qualities to work with them. People aren’t inherently down and depressed…it’s their focus that has made them so. Provide an environment that encourages creative thought and you’ll nurture it.

Don’t get side-tracked by short-term market pressures. Thinking long-term will engender the team spirit that drives performance and quality thinking.

Live up to your values daily. If people see you saying one thing and doing another, your credibility will go down and people will cease to care anymore.

Remember… your purpose is to create a great place to work. This will encourage your team to bring the specific skills with them that will drive performance. And it’s this commitment from people that will give you the edge in performance and create extra market value for your team, business and industry.

Many thanks

Mark Williams

Head of Training

(Image by Idea go)


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10 Steps To Creating A Customer-Focused Culture

Many people who manage teams in customer service are aware of the need to display vision and customer focus in their businesses, but less people are able to apply this in the real-world atmosphere of the hot-house business.

To create a culture takes time and effort. And you can’t demand this quality service from people; they have to want to deliver it from their hearts, and that’s not an easy concept to transfer to people.

How can you create a culture that breeds customer loyalty and continuous satisfaction? Here are some steps you can take:

1) Be clear on what the core values of the business are in respects to service excellence

2) Ensure everyone in the business knows them and understands them

3) Ensure top management agree with and live those values

4) Plan for improvement programmes that can be run in-house, rather than waiting for external customer service courses to come around

5) Identify what areas need to improve in their quality of service to hit the desired standards

6) Ensure all values are driven internally and offer internal customers the same standards as you would for external customers

7) Decide how the behaviours of front-line staff can be agreed and monitored

8 ) Get the right people to be the service ambassadors for your business. You don’t want all your efforts going to waste because people don’t believe in this stuff

9) Plan how you are going to monitor and reward performance at the sharp end

10) Carry out recognition programmes that reward the behaviours you are seeking from your teams

By highlighting how the business will succeed by promoting a customer-focused culture, you are more likely to get support and recognition from the people in authority, whose support is vital for the success of any programme, and from the people who really matter – the teams carrying out the front-of-house jobs that determine how successful the culture will bed in.

Thanks again


Sean McPheat
Managing Director


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The Best Way To Provide Quality Service

How do you know if you are offering excellent customer service? Most companies tell us they use focus groups, surveys, response cards, mystery shopping, etc, and all these are valuable to create an awareness of exactly hat you’re doing right and wrong.

But unless you use another, cheaper, closer-to-home method, you might be missing a trick.

Who has the closest interaction with your clients and can often see where the glaringly obvious but often overlooked areas of improvement are?

Naturally, it’s your customer-facing staff, and they have the best opportunities every day to share data and customer responses in real time and from right at the coal face. It shows also that you value their opinions, respect their viewpoints and show that you’re serious about providing the environment for quality customer service.

How do we go about it?

Any system you introduce must be organised so that customer-facing staff understand what information will be useful and how that information can be gained from customers

The system should be simple to use and be quick in its operation (check sheets, report forms, etc)

There should be a simple way of reporting the information, so staff know it is important and will be looked at

Action has to be taken on the feedback

This can provide a good analysis of training and development needs within the department, like coaching in questioning and listening skills, building rapport or empathy

What’s your role in all this?

You need to lay the foundation so everyone knows the reason why the process is being carried out. It shouldn’t be seen as a spying exercise on staff, or to add extra inconvenience to them; they should see the benefits of any such process and how it all aims for excellence in customer service.

You need to walk the talk. If staff see you spouting excellence in what you say, but see you cutting corners and complaining about customers in reality, they aren’t going to take any programme like this seriously.

Staff can be then be involved in group discussions or individual meetings. Managers can begin by asking some or all of the following questions:

* How do we know if our clients are satisfied with our service?
* How would we know if they didn’t?
* What do we need to know to find out about our clients’ perceptions?

Then you can determine the style of questions that can be asked at any time when you contact clients.

Ensure that all staff get to see the results of any work they contribute to, This will mean you are serious about improving quality and they are more willing contribute.

Make sure that the data collected is used to make decisions regarding service improvement. You could design a meeting to share results on report, interpretation, actions and improvements. Make sure you put some consistency into it, and it’s not seen as an ad-hoc process, looked at when you might have the time. If you give it high priority, so will your staff.

Then, put the action plans to work. Ensure your goals are specific and measurable, and have an impact on the areas your staff said needed improving.

Share the successes and otherwise. Let people know how you are measuring excellence and make it a topic of discussion regularly.

Check on whether anything you have initiated needs changing, and actually make those changes. Nothing will kill a new initiative quicker than if you don’t create changes when the very people who are driving that change do not get responses from management.

If you create an atmosphere of excellence, your people will follow and will actually want to be excellent in all their contacts with customers. And that could be the very thing that drives your business forward in the future.

Thanks again


Sean McPheat
Managing Director


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Do You Have a Skilled Customer Service Team?

Chances are, whether you have direct client contact or not, you and your team members are providing some sort of customer service. You may not be dealing with outside clients, but in almost every situation you have some sort of internal client (another team, accounting, human resources, etc). Regardless of who your client may be, you need to have the customer service skills necessary to make your customers happy.

But how do you offer great customer service, from a management standpoint?

  • Start by hiring a great group of people. We’ve spoken quite a bit about interview skills – so use them. Make sure you aren’t only hiring people who can get the job done, but who can get the job done while remaining friendly and interested in their work.
  • Make sure you outline a clear set of customer service standards for your team members to follow. They should dictate how they speak to customers, how they act in the presence of customers, and how they respond (in both attitude and time frame) to the needs of their customers. Once you’ve set the standards, hold your team members to them.
  • Ensure your team member are getting the training they need. Believe it or not, most people aren’t born working in customer service industries and, as such, the skills needed to deal with people do not come naturally. Ongoing training will support your cause.
  • Develop an incentive program through which those who go above and beyond the call of duty can be  rewarded for their efforts. Sure, you should be paying well, but you should show your team members a bit of respect by acknowledging their hard work from time to time as well.
  • Take criticism seriously. People who are unhappy with your business aren’t likely to tell you about their experiences – they’ll tell everyone else they know instead. If someone has something to say – listen. Others probably have the same sentiment.

The happier your team members, the more their attitudes will rub off on their customer interactions – guaranteed.

Thanks again,

Sean McPheat
Managing Director


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