Australia’s customer service levels leave
much to be desired. Tom Washington
explores how employers can incentivise
staff to up their game
We all probably knew it already, but now it’s official:
Australia is rubbish when it comes to customer service.A report released last month found that 81 per cent of
Australians feel that companies are not doing anything
extra to keep their business or are taking their business for
granted, while a measly two per cent reported that customer service usually
exceeds their expectations.
The American Express Global Customer Service Barometer survey also
showed that the majority of consumers would spend an average of eight per
cent more if they received exceptional customer service.
Customer service is clearly so important, yet so many businesses fail to
ensure its magnitude is known among employees. Indeed, businesses spend
thousands on marketing their brand and services, in glossy brochures, television
commercials, promotions, product development and sales channels. But all that
goes spiralling quickly down the drain if the brand culture isn’t reflected at the
point of customer contact.
Mercedes Trautwein, joint managing director at EVT Incentive Marketing,
says: “Marketing should really begin with looking at staff training and ensuring
they have a motivated and informed team. If the team are not motivated nobody
is going to do business with you, they will go to the company that is, and there
will be a loss of revenue and negative referrals.
“Many of our clients have significantly cut back on their advertising spend
because they’re team is working so well with profits climbing as a direct result of
the incentive program.”
Fortunately, there are steps HR can take to remedy poor customer service.
Trautwein says that HR must do two key things to incentivise good customer service:
measure and reward. After that, she says, it all boils down to communication.
“High quality service means high quality training. A great starting point is to
implement a Mystery Shopper Experience program and use that as the base
line, find out the real experiences of customers measured against HR needs:
product knowledge, courtesy, enthusiasm, promptness, cleanliness, how staff
represent the brand.
“There are myriad variables, depending on the business. Compliance is a
critical factor in evaluation. This provides HR with real measurements which form
the basis of training and the reward and incentive program then follows when
you go back and test by a Mystery Shop using the same scenarios.”
James Wright, account director at Red Balloon, saysthe principle cause of
bad customer service is employee disengagement.
“For whatever reason, and there are many causes of disengagement, the
employee does not believe or have faith in the rest of their organisation to
deliver the goods or service effectively so takes no responsibility or pride in the
their customer interactions,” he says.
“Other contributing factors might be that the employee is simply not
empowered to deliver good customer service, decision making lies in the hands
of the few, they are confined to scripted responses or the company’s terms and
conditions just stink!”
HR’s role is therefore pivotal to ensuring that employees are both enabled
and engaged, and incentives must be tailored to suit specific customer services
“Service cannot improve if incentives are solely
around sales numbers or for example call handling
times,” says Wright. “Recognition needs to be
apparent and regular for customer service excellence,
even if it costs more and takes longer than would be
ideal, it is about the organisation learning and getting
better. HR can drive improvements in the quality of
customer service by being advocates of and
ambassadors for qualitative recognition programs that
celebrate the achievements of an enabled workforce.”
Key performance indicators (KPIs) are crucial in
creating this environment. Once these are built into
employees’ daily routine, there is something tangible
to measure their performance against. Similarly, if
there is a problem in the workplace such as bonuses
being revoked or cut-backs introduced, this can have
an effect. Not delivering bad service can be a way
of acting out these frustrations.
A major trend over the last couple of years has
been towards peer to peer nomination. This allows
internal excellence to be acknowledged and
celebrated, as well as opening up the conversation
for people other than managers to spot good service
and share it quickly with rest of the organisation.
An example of this, explains Wright, is at
motoring organisation RACQ. With over 1,000
employees, it created the space for daily nominations
for Excellence and Quality among other awards.
These daily acknowledgements have helped improve
employee satisfaction and in turn create the space
for employees to deliver outstanding customer
interactions. In less than 12 months RACQ has seen a
rise in employee engagement of six per cent.
Elsewhere, a recent customer service survey was
the key to a very successful incentive campaign for
a client of EVT Incentive Marketing.
The customer service ranking became a highly
recognised badge of pride in this particular auto-
dealership,” explains Trautwein. “Customers ranked
every aspect of the after sales experience. We then
analysed the results and developed the incentive
program. We can act quickly and alert our client to
any areas of customer concern so they can step in and
fix the problem with the customer and the employee.
In this method, the customer service ranking
becomes part of the employers’ KPIs which all have
different milestones and rewards during the year as
a way of engaging and motivating the team.
It also formalises the customer service approach
and puts the employer in control. Employees then
hold their customer service ranking in very high
regard, and see status in the position which is
rewarded each year with incentive travel.
In the end, however employers choose to
incentivise better customer service, the message is
clear: do it now or be prepared to lose business.