Make The Most Of Your Customer Service Staff

A Reader’s Question:

Help! We’ve cut back our staff, and my team is being asked to pick up the slack. The new assignments per rep include making 10 additional customer calls per day as well as monitoring customer e-mails for five new accounts. How should we start reorganizing our time to take on this extra workload? Any time management and organizational techniques that have worked for other service teams in this situation are welcome.

A Reader’s Response:

Remember that some time management efforts can be aided with technology. Review your current phone system and incoming call set-up. Can it be tweaked, changed or improved to help enhance the customer experience as well as improve staff efficiency?

Can you utilize your staff’s natural talents better? For example, assign those who are better writers the task of monitoring customer e-mails. Taking time to assess what you do well as a team may save you much time later.

Regardless of reorganization, keep in mind that your most important asset is your existing team: Continue to foster a culture of rewards and recognition. Use inexpensive ways to build morale while sharing appreciation for your team’s hard work.

For example, when our team experienced a restructuring, we circulated the book Fish! A Remarkable Way to Achieve Your Dreams. Then, we passed around a stuffed fish toy to recognize a staffer for a job well done. Another time we gave Silly Putty to each team member to use for stress relief.

Keeping the environment fun and inspirational will be tough work with an already-stressed staff. But it is an important factor in reducing turnover and work-related burnout or illness.

—Tammy Wellbrock, Direct Sales Account Representative, Nex-Tech

Response from the Editors:

Evaluate your duties and identify tasks that don’t add value to the customer experience. Determine whether you can streamline those tasks by using software or online tools, implementing an improved filing system or creating a detailed to-do list. Brainstorm with your team members on time-saving ideas.Slash minutes and even hours out of your day with the following tips:

  • Upgrade your to-do list. Whenever you add an item to your list, ask yourself “When will I do this?” Jot down the time next to the item and commit to completing the task within that time period.
  • Secure information. When you receive important e-mails containing customer information, new corporate policies, product or service updates, and other important documents, save them to files specially designated for them. You will cut down on time spent searching for information. Print the e-mail messages and file them in manila folders. That way, you will have the information on hand if your network or computer goes down or, worse, if the messages are somehow deleted or lost.
  • Optimize your workspace. Make your workspace more efficient. Position your phone on your left side if you’re right-handed. Place a pen and pad nearby on your right side to take notes during phone conversations with customers. If you’re left-handed, do the reverse.

Quote of the Week:

“If the shopper feels like it was poor service, then it was poor service. We are in the customer perception business.”

—Mark Perrault, General Manager, Rally Stores

Tip of the Week:

Slow down

Are you talking so quickly that your customers can’t understand you? Use this strategy to make certain that you are not:

On your next 10 calls, keep a running tally of the number of times callers ask you to repeat yourself. If customers routinely ask you to restate your name or the organization’s name, or if they ask you to repeat parts of your service script, you’re speaking too quickly.

—From the editors.

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Each issue of the First-Rate Customer Service Forum offers you tips for improving your customer service skills. Plus, you have the opportunity to request advice on your most vexing customer service problems—and receive feedback from your peers and our panel of editors!

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