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Building Blocks of First-Rate Customer Service

Want to build a first class customer service team? Utilities that want to stand out from the competition must be prepared to do things differently. I cover a few of these key building blocks for customer service excellence.

Hire the Committed

Hire people who have not only bought into your organization’s vision but that are also committed to executing on their role. Customer service is a major face and voice of your company. Do not leave it to chance since it’s hard to feign enthusiasm for long. The lack of excitement by your business’ most visible representatives doesn’t endear the brand to current or potential customers.

Complementarity

A winning team is a cohesive team. That does not however mean hiring persons with near identical personalities and skillsets. A utility’s customer base is deeply diverse and comprises individuals with varying temperaments and preferences. Unlike roles in sales and marketing, outgoing personalities do not necessarily have a significant advantage over their more reserved colleagues when it comes to customer service jobs.

The primary responsibility in customer service is responding to enquiries and resolving complaints. What matters is one’s ability to execute on this core function. Not every customer will be attracted to an animated personality. Some will prefer a more withdrawn individual as long as the agent gets the job done (here's a recent example).

Give Staff Some Latitude

Scripts and standard operating procedures are tools of risk management. They help protect your business reputation and portray a consistent image of your brand. Yet, rigid procedures can be stifling and may be impractical or unhelpful in certain situations.

Instead, get customer service representatives to have a deep understanding of the organization’s workings and objectives. That gives them the power to allow exceptions to the rules as long as such exceptions do not harm the business and are in line with the utility’s long term goals. Latitude gives teams the space to explore new and better paths for the business to serve its customers.

Access to Information

Large businesses often follow the ‘need to know’ principle i.e. information is disclosed to an employee only if they need it to do their job. Some data is certainly sensitive. Most of a utility’s internal body of information does not fall in this bracket though. Staff, especially those working in customer service, should have access to nearly all business and product information.

A customer service department must strive not to be a collection of switchboard operators i.e. receiving calls that are then forwarded to someone else for resolution. Most enquiries should be conclusively answered by the first person customers come into contact with. Customer service agents should be the first trained on new products and procedures. Access to information ensures staff can work quickly and efficiently.

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