When you dig under the surface of any corporate policy and procedure designed to satisfy customers you might ask about empowerment. Employees who are empowered to make delicate and difficult transactional decisions have an important role; have you considered how employees make customer service decisions?
Most of the work that we do and likely most of the sales transactions don’t go beyond the decision for a customer to buy and for a vendor to fulfill. Occasionally though, something will go wrong. A client or customer will need something more, something extra, or perhaps there is a flaw or defect.
When we purchase a pack of Post-it notes, we expect them to stick, disposable pens we expect to have ink, and our file folders should fit in the cabinet. Many transactions are simple, straight forward, and require little thought to make things right.
It is the complexity of the world we live in that creates an additional challenge. Expectations of people vary. So will the decisions that they make.
When there is a problem and we begin a conversation with someone designated to help, we may become progressively curious about his or her level of empowerment. A really angry customer may start the conversation with, “I need to speak with a manager.”
Many organizations feel a bit torn, a bit of tug of war, or wonder how they will walk-the-line.
There becomes a balance, often a set of rules or guidelines designed to steer employees to follow the flow chart. It is straight forward, or so we think. When the customer presents this, you say that.
When we think about it, it all comes down to the decisions that we trust employees to make. That is empowerment.
Certainly, not every employee is ready to make the most difficult choices. Consideration to advance problems to a higher level will probably always be part of the process.
The best scenario is minimizing problems in the first place. Those too are often based on the decisions that employees make.
Customer Service Decisions
Most people can follow the flow chart. They can be trained to understand start and end blocks, input and output, and processes. Still, at some point, they’ll encounter a decision.
Training is important, but training beyond policy will come from the training that forms an understanding of the culture.
Not every decision can be made at the front line, but the easy ones can. What makes a decision easier? Certainly ones with smaller risk, but understanding policy should have equal importance with developing the understanding of the philosophy and the culture.
That is how people make good customer service decisions.
Originally posted on October 9, 2017, last updated on August 25, 2020.
Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and culture expert. He is a five-time author and the founder of Appreciative Strategies, LLC. His business focuses on positive human performance improvement solutions through Appreciative Strategies®. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.