The first priority in customer and sales services has to be customer interaction. Well-managed customer interactions ensure that the customer’s issues are addressed, resulting in a positive customer experience and a satisfied customer who is happy to continue as a customer or become one. The operating conditions of the company itself often depend on managing these interactions in the best possible way. Due to this, it seems odd that surprisingly little time and resources are devoted to developing customer interactions.
The majority probably agree that the best way to improve the quality of customer interactions is to coach the individuals working at the customer interface and to give and receive feedback on actual customer interactions. During conversations with my contacts and customers, I often find myself in a situation where the other party does agree with me, but then goes on to provide more or less plausible reasons why this is still not done in practice.
Why is it not done?
The most common reason is probably a lack of time. Meetings are scattered throughout the work day and there is not enough time in between to get down to actual coaching, because you are already preparing for the next meeting. Your schedules may not work for you and you may end up in a situation where you know exactly what you should be doing, but you simply do not seem to have the time to do it.
This is also often linked to the fact that the tools available for coaching and quality assessment do not enable their clear monitoring. Excel, Word and Outlook do not give anyone in the organization a clear picture of how coaching and quality assessment has been done, and consequently, goal setting is often neglected or goal fulfilment is not monitored. When the employee, team leader or management is unaware of the quantities and realizations, the entire process usually falls apart due to its own impossibility.
Another common reason is that measuring the customer experience is perceived as quality assurance, which it is not. At its worst, using the customer experience as an indicator results in the failure to measure the quality of the work itself or the failure to organize coaching. The customer experience is typically measured too early. Measuring the customer experience when you are not even fully aware of your quality standards or goals is fairly useless.
Self-assessment is important in quality assurance
Self-assessment is an excellent way to develop your competence and performance. It allows everyone to take control of their personal strengths and development needs. However, successful self-assessment requires clear guidelines in terms of the goals and the development targets. Self-assessment should therefore also be based on clear instructions and guidelines as to what the goals of the organization are and what measures are required to achieve these goals.
Self-assessments also effectively balance the workload of team leaders and coaches in terms of quality assurance, while also helping the employees commit to the development of customer interactions and their personal competence. And of course, it is also essential to communicate and instruct everyone in the organization in a simple, clear manner as to what a positive, successful customer interaction requires.
Systematic, uniform coaching
A large number of organizations also struggle with the uneven quality of coaching. When it comes to coaching skills, each team leader and coach naturally has their personal strengths and development needs. Sharing best practices in coaching and receiving help with personal development needs is almost always insufficient.
The best way to implement best practices is to create a clear coaching agenda about the topics that will be discussed in the conversations. By including people from all levels in this process and updating the agenda whenever needed, you can share the best practices with everyone and, during the discussions, also address any areas that are not as strong as the others.
A clear agenda helps to conduct coaching sessions, and the employees know in advance which themes will be discussed during the session and can prepare for the topics beforehand. This results in effective coaching sessions that stick to the point in which the next areas of development can be easily agreed, in addition to the indicators and the monitoring schedules.
Customer experience measurement and quality assurance
It is advisable to measure customer experience alongside quality assurance. This allows you to connect the actions taken at the customer interface with the customer experience and make any necessary changes in a measurable way.
If the customer experience is measured without clear quality assurance, customer reviews can provide an entirely wrong impression of quality. For example, customer service agents and salespeople who do not necessarily follow internal guidelines may still receive top marks from customers. Correspondingly, the ones who do follow the internal guidelines may receive totally opposite reviews from the same customer. This means that the service quality has been uneven, which comes across to the customers as bad service.
Then again, if the feedback from customers is constantly negative, the goals of quality assurance should be revised.
Coaching and quality assurance improve customer experience and performance
Well-organized and conducted coaching and quality assurance processes automatically produce results in both customer experience and performance indicators. If everyone in the organization knows what the current levels of performance are and what measures are required to achieve the goals, you have a situation where the improvement of performance is almost inevitable.
This requires the entire organization, from the employees to the management, to commit to the process. Such commitment is difficult to foster if everyone does not have a clear view of the expectations and how they are met. When the capacity to visibly demonstrate strengths and development needs exists at the level of the individual, the team, the unit and the entire organization, it is much easier to set goals and monitor this process.
This also allows you to address the root causes of why the process has been unsuccessful so far. For example, if the team leaders set quality assurance goals that are impossible to reach with the current workload, there is reason to consider whether the goals are realistic or if the task description is accurate. Clarifying these issues frees up time for what they actually want to teams to focus on.
Developing customer experiences and improving performance levels almost always go hand in hand. Luckily, they can both be improved through the same measures. It is crucial that the organization has clear, well-communicated goals that are also always translated into actions: “This is our goal and we will reach it by doing this.” This requires the involvement of the entire organization in creating the instructions and processes and committing to their implementation.
Measuring actions and monitoring them are the clearest, most effective measures for ensuring that the right things get done. This will also reveal any areas for improvement that can then be addressed and developed. It is difficult to drive operations forward if you do not know at which point things will fall apart. Measuring should never be an end in itself, but a tool for genuinely developing things.
Having all levels of the organization involved in the process from the beginning also ensures that the entire staff is committed to driving the process forward. In practice, this invariably also requires clear goal setting and monitoring, for which the management should find the time. Otherwise, you end up in a situation where being busy and having no time become obstacles and nothing is done to fix these things.
This will inevitably cause the entire process to fall apart and evoke feelings of frustration in staff. This ultimately results in a situation where even a carefully thought-out process begins to fail. In this case, even easily achievable improvements in customer experience, performance improvements, and higher employee satisfaction become the opposite, and nobody can pinpoint why the carefully built process does not produce the desired results.
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