Everyone has their own take on what makes a top-notch customer service experience and most companies have teams dedicated to ensuring that their beliefs, value systems, and service delivery expectations are properly baked into training, marketing, and recruiting materials.   We want to be viewed as the best, we look to hire the best, and we aspire to have our service delivery earn consistently high marks with our customers so the world knows that we are the best.

How do you define amazing service?  Does it involve…

  • Service with a smile
  • Following the Golden Rule (treating others as you wish to be treated yourself)
  • Attentiveness
  • Responsiveness
  • A proactive approach

If your business incorporates any (and ideally all) of the above, you are in good company.  Most organizations associate superior customer service with building trust, being attentive, displaying courtesy and professionalism, possessing a proactive nature, being resourceful, smiling, keeping customers happy, and doing whatever it takes to create positive word of mouth.  These are all excellent goals to have as long as they are well defined and everyone in the organization understands not only what they mean, but how they are manifested in the working environment.

Although these traits define the practical approach many of us take when working with customers, they represent only part of what constitutes a strong, effective service operation.

The ability of Customer Service Representatives to resolve customer issues is the most critical driver of customer satisfaction, loyalty, and word of mouth recommendations.

The true measure of a customer service operation is in its ability to solve problems.  Call it our identity or our reason for being, but solving problems is what defines us, it is what we are here to do, and depending on how well we do it, it is why customers will continue to come back (or decide to look elsewhere).   Combined with a winning approach, effective problem solving has the power to elevate an organization well above its competition and garner the accolades that promote customer growth and retention.  Poor problem solving skills, on the other hand, only serve to frustrate the customers we are trying to help and drive them further away.

As a rule, customers do not pick up the phone, send us an email, or walk into our stores simply to shoot the breeze.  Every time they reach out to us, they have a problem that needs to be solved whether that involves placing an order, locating a store, or handling a complaint.  Although the complexity of each situation will be different, they all represent challenges that the customer wants us to solve for them.

To do this effectively, customer service operations need to take a targeted, intelligent, and methodical approach to service delivery.  Teams need to be well trained, possess self-motivation and drive, know their resources, understand how to use them, be able to pick up on all kinds of clues, work as a team, and be willing to think outside the box in order to anticipate and solve the problems that our customers send their way.   Call it a CSI approach to service delivery, but an investigative methodology is essential to successfully taking a customer inquiry from start to finish.  This approach also encompasses the key elements of a “wow” experience which is why the ability to problem solve is at the core of extraordinary customer service and should be an integral part of every training initiative.

How can teams improve their problem solving abilities and elevate service delivery effectiveness?

  • Make problem solving a key criteria in the hiring process by looking for those with critical thinking skills and an analytical approach to breaking down problems.
  • Build problem solving into all new hire training programs and develop ongoing training curriculums focused entirely on this important skill.
  • Have monthly problem solving contests where the best answer to a complex problem gets the prize. This is also a valuable tool as it brings to light the nature of the problems that team members are handling, helps define customer service trends, and is an important means of adding to or building upon existing documentation.
  • Talk about problem solving at every opportunity – team meetings, one-on-ones, company-wide meetings – and share real life anecdotes that your customers are presenting to your team members on a daily basis.
  • Have everyone listen to calls, both the good ones and the not-so-good ones. It is so important for everyone to hear what happens in real customer situations, identify the problems presented, and know how to analyze and learn from those interactions.
  • Consider creating a mentoring program designed to have those with top notch problem solving skills help others on the team identify, address, and resolve situations for their customers.
  • Finally, give shout-outs to those who demonstrate good problem solving skills and don’t forget to highlight the ordinary as well as the unusual situations your teams encounter. Newsletters, emails, instant messages, and meetings are great ways of promoting exemplary problem solving efforts.  In addition to engaging team members in discussions about how they’ve solved customers’ problems, you will also provide a wealth of ideas and options for those who may be experiencing challenges with certain types of interactions.
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