Mirror of the Mind: Customer Service

Andrea Nierenberg

How often have you heard a supervisor or manager exclaim, "It's all about the bottom line. We need to do all we can to keep our customers," or, "Without the customer we are nothing." Both statements are true. However, while CEOs, presidents, and managers should focus on the customer, sometimes they can treat people inside the company as only a "means to an end."

What can a company do, so that employees have a greater sense of customer care? One key secret is for you to value, support and care for your internal people. We must treat them with the utmost respect, courtesy and interest, so that they in turn present these attitudes to the people doing business with you. Remember, these are the people who are serving and speaking to your "paying clients" every day.

The people you have on board are the competitive measure of what separates you from the others. Here are a few things to remember when communicating with them:

  • Make contact on every level. How often do you go down to the trenches and talk to your front line people? Find out how they are, and learn what issues concern them. Ask them for customers' comments.
  • Give your people a sense of ownership. This is empowerment. When people feel as if it's their own company, they'll work harder to provide better service. One way you can encourage them to work ahrder is with incentives built into the job. These can be rewards or cash bonuses. Remember, this applies to EVERYONE at your company. Often the sales people get the best incentives. However, the performance of the assistants and people in the accounting department impact the sales force, which in turn impacts the customer.
  • Help them grow. Let your staff know that they have an opportunity to become better at what they do. Constantly be looking for ways to provide on-the-job training. Also, people grow when they feel that they are part of the decision-making process. For example, let them offer suggestions and new policy ideas. Remember, their suggestions may be a result of hundreds of conversations they have with customers. They could have information that would give you new ideas to increase business and save on costs.
  • Everyone is a salesperson. While front line salespeople are normally in touch with the customers the most, it's my suggestion that everyone think of themselves as a salesperson. they shoudl see the company like a human body. When every part of the body is well, great things can be achieved. However, a small irritation in teh foot can cause a champion runner to stumble and go crashing down. Make sure to give your entire comapny a "check up."
  •  One way to keep these ideas in mind is to think of how C.L.I.E.N.T.s relate to your employees:
    C -- Concentrate on employee needs; this helps customer needs
    L -- Listen to what employees say, and what they don't say
    I -- Invest in your people, and gain customer satisfaction
    E -- Excellence in everything
    N -- Nice people finish first; keep your people happy
    T -- Trust your front line by giving them care and power

Nurture everyone at your company, and great customer care will be the fruit of your efforts.

Andrea Nierenberg is president of the Nierenberg Group.
Copyright 2009. All Rights Reserved.

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