Any organization comprises different functions, such as marketing, sales, product, customer support, etc. In very small companies, the owner may perform all these functions themselves. As the business grows, different team members specialize in certain functions. The time-consuming tasks of customer service are often among the first to be separated out in this way.
Great customer service is surrounded with myths that can harm its professional image. These are so widespread and persistent that they create confusion for anyone who wants to make a difference for their organization, whether they’ve just hired the first support rep for their startup or they manage customer experience in a corporation.
Time to debunk some of the most pervasive myths surrounding quality customer service.
Myth #1: Customer Service is an Attitude
The right attitude does not automatically guarantee the right outcomes for the customer. And that’s not even looking at balancing the customer’s needs and those of your organization.
The truth is, customer service pros can’t even seem to agree on how to measure the quality of customer service: should you ask the Net Promoter question? Let people rate their satisfaction on a scale from 1 to 10? Offer smiley faces? Or is customer effort score the best indicator?
A customer-focused attitude can help you achieve better outcomes for customers if it’s matched by easy-to-use technology, clear team structures, empowering people management and a compelling company mission. Even the best attitude will soon wither away if it’s not supported and nurtured on a daily basis.
Myth #2: The Customer Service Team is Responsible for Fixing Problems
It’s easy to regard call centers as silos and treat the customer support team as a standalone department: the problem fixers.
In fact, if done well, it’s a team effort which involves the entire organization. Because, properly understood, customer service is proactive and reactive, preventative and remedial.
For example, imagine the marketing team getting a bit too excited with their messaging and their website copy ever so slightly overselling the product. As a result, customers might complain saying that the product doesn’t deliver what it promises.
Of course, the customer service team will be the first-line contact for that complaint. Skilled advisors will hear the customer out, empathize with them and find a solution that restores the relationship.
But that’s not enough.
The best service teams collect that customer feedback and collaborate with marketing to reduce the likelihood of further complaints.
Or think of a customer returning a product and chasing their refund.
In most companies, customer service will have to double check that the return is already with the mail office or warehouse and then liaise with back-office admin teams and finance to get that refund processed. Ideally, the four teams should work together to make chasing unnecessary in the future, which might involve other teams in charge of updating website copy or automated emails.
In many scenarios, customer service simply does not work without cross-team collaboration. It’s the entire organization asking: how can we delight our customers?
Myth #3: Serving Customers is an Entry-level Task
At the time of writing, 88% of the global customer vacancies listed on Indeed.com are entry-level roles:
This imbalance represents one of the biggest fallacies in customer service.
Great customer service always starts with the leadership team, right at the C-level. That’s because a thriving customer-centric culture based on cross-team collaboration isn’t a grassroots movement. A CEO who believes in a traditional leadership model will be less likely to join the support team and answer tickets, for example. And if an organization keeps thinking of support reps as ‘the lowest in the food chain’, how likely is it that those support reps will be heard in big projects?
If the voice of customer service is to be heard, it needs a representative who can meet with others at eye level. That cultural shift needs to trickle from the leader down to the last one in the hierarchy.
Surprisingly, C-level executives already know this. Even in 2016, Deloitte found that companies striving to become more customer-focused were shifting their structures in favor of more ad-hoc team cooperation: 92% of the executives surveyed had made organizational design their top priority, and 45% of them were either already restructuring their company or planning to do so.
So, if they know, how come that customer service often has no place at the table? We can blame myth #4 for this situation.
Myth #4: Your Organisation Should Already Know How to Give Great Customer Service
Customer Service as a function is as old as business itself: perhaps the oldest recorded customer complaint dates from 1750 B.C. So it’s understandable that this myth is so widely believed.
But the world has changed in the last 4,000 years or so. Not only have we moved on from inscribing clay tablets, customers now expect seamless experiences, conversations with a human touch, less contact overall, and resolution speed.
Most organizations do not know how to make the switch to a structure able to deliver this customer experience. In the report quoted above, Deloitte found that only 14% of business leaders considered their companies ready to redesign the way they work together. Only about 1 in 5 expressed confidence about building cross-functional teams, and almost 90% indicated that they didn’t understand collaboration in networks.
In switching to networked teams, the role of change management is often underestimated. The ADKAR model goes some way to help with that problem, but it’s often applied too fast and too mechanically, with not enough emphasis on the psychology of change.
According to William Bridges, it’s not enough to simply introduce a new org chart: such external changes don’t equate to the necessary internal transition. Award-winning team coach, Dorit Noble, takes this further. She recommends thinking of change as an edge between the old and new ways of doing things. Some people will leap over that edge. Most will resist the in-between state, though, because it feels unpleasant. A bit like an identity crisis even. However, it’s their buy-in that’s essential to create the critical mass for the change to be successful.
This is where coaching, workshops and facilitation come in. Organizations that create the space for those clarifying and empowering conversations experience more substantial and lasting change: the kind of change that turns customer service from a department into a team sport.
Over to you! Please share your thoughts and views in the comment section below. I’d love to know what you think.