Join Jeff Toister for an in-depth discussion in this video Checking awareness, part of Quick Fixes for Poor Customer Service.
- A lack of awareness is a major cause of customer service problems. There are many reasons why an employee might not be aware of a problem: The problem might not be clearly defined. Their supervisor might be reluctant to give feedback, or might not have enough time. Or, expectations might not have been clearly communicated. In one case, a Credit Union had created a set of service standards. Things looked pretty good when 95% of employees could accurately name all five service standards. But the Credit Union's executives were surprised to learn that employees didn't actually know what the service standards meant, or how they applied to their jobs.
It was a classic example of unclear expectations. Let's go back to the Quick-Fix Checklist that we referenced in the last video. If you haven't done so already, you may want to download it, so you can follow along as we review it. The question we need to answer is, whether employees are aware of their performance, and how it compares to our goal. We've used a contact center example in the last two videos. Let's go back to the contact center now, and see if we can identify any problems using the questions on the checklist.
The first question is, "Does the person know "what the desired performance looks like?" In this case, the answer is "yes." Employees clearly seem to be working hard to solve problems on the first call. The next question is, "Are they aware of the gap "between existing and desired performance?" Here, we discover a problem: Our goal is to solve 75% of our customer's problems on the first contact, but we aren't sharing this performance data with employees. It's hard for them to know they need to improve, if they don't know how they're doing.
The last question is, "Do they know what they need "to do differently to improve?" Now, we're really stuck, because even we don't know what they need to do differently at this point, but at least we now have a better sense of the problem: In the contact center, we're not sharing first contact resolution data with employees, so we can quickly fix that, by sharing the goal with everyone and letting them know where we are now. Sometimes, making employees aware is not so easy. At the Credit Union I mentioned earlier, employees were aware of the service standards, but were confused about their meaning.
We did an assessment, and quickly discovered the problem. You can take the assessment too. Just think about how you would normally communicate something like service standards to your employees. Make a note of each communication technique you would likely use. Would you send employees an email explaining the service standards? Demonstrate the service standards, so employees could see what they look like in action? Use open-ended questions to evaluate how well employees understood the service standards? Observe the employees and give them feedback on how they were using the service standards? Or, verbally explain the service standards to employees, perhaps in a team meeting? Which ones would you choose? Most of the Branch Managers at the Credit Union said they sent an email to their staff, or provided a verbal explanation in a team meeting.
These communication techniques are fast, but they're not the most efficient. The most effective techniques are using open-ended questions and observing employees, but why? Because these two require the employees' involvement, while the other three do not. One-way communication, like sending an email, won't tell you if the employee clearly understands the expectations. Asking them questions, or watching them perform and then giving them feedback, will give you a much better sense of their understanding.
Now, it's your turn to apply this concept to a customer service problem you're working on. I encourage you to use the Quick-Fix Checklist to evaluate fix number three, and determine whether employees are aware of the issue.