10 June 2010

The basics are no longer basic, so lets start at the beginning

I often hear people talking about the basics of customer service, almost in a way that assumes that everybody knows them. From my experience, very few people are really aware of the basics of customer service and, like virtually every business skill, they need to be taught.

You might feel a little bit embarrassed about telling a member of your staff how to answer a telephone or how to greet a customer, but if it’s your business, your main focus needs to be on satisfying your customers and making sure that they have a positive and ideally a memorable experience when doing business with your organisation.

Customer service is a big issue and there is a lot to learn. I believe that you need to start at the beginning and work your way through all of the important topics, one step at a time. As every business has its own unique aspects, it is important to apply the principles of customer service in a way that is appropriate for your specific business. Sometimes it’s difficult for people to make the leap from a theoretical example in a book to a real life, everyday situation that they may face.

One way to teach staff the basics of customer service is to team up new and impressionable staff members with a senior member of the team who can teach them the ropes. Be aware though, that this can also backfire. The experienced member of the team has probably developed their own style, and it’s likely that they are confident, that their product knowledge is good and that they know a lot of your customers well. The new staff member might mirror their behaviour, which may not be appropriate. They may become overly familiar with the customers, they may not learn about their products for themselves but simply repeat what the senior staff member says to customers, or they may learn bad habits and take short cuts without learning and understanding the basics.

For this reason, I suggest that all staff should have a very clear understanding of your basic expectations when it comes to customer service. You should control and monitor this. Once the basics are clear, introduce new and experienced staff members to add a different dimension to fresh and impressionable new staff. The importance of this orientation should be emphasised to the experienced staff members.

It is often a good idea to have your experienced staff sit in on basic orientations as well, as it’s very likely that they have forgotten some of the basics. We all need to be reminded of these from time to time. But get them involved from the perspective that their experience will be of great assistance in the orientation.

The world is changing. What was once a basic or minimum is no longer that clear. If it is your business it is up to you to make sure you set the standards for what the basics are and then do whatever it takes to get all staff on board. The next part of this process is to work on exceeding all expectations – but that is a post for another time.

One thought on “The basics are no longer basic, so lets start at the beginning”

  1. Helen Simpson says:

    Queensland Tourism Industry Council has an excellent ‘basics’ course in customer service – Aussie Host. It is an affordable 1 day course that introduces the new hands to the ‘must dos’ and reminds the old hands of things they may have forgotten. Licensed providers deleiver this course across Queensland to all industries (not just tourism). Google Aussie Host for contact details in your region.

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