Join Jeff Toister for an in-depth discussion in this video Improving service quality, part of Managing a Customer Service Team.
- Improving service quality is a critical mission for every customer service leader. In this video, I'm gonna walk you through a three-step process for solving problems, and elevating customer service. You may wanna download the Service Quality Improvement Worksheet so you can apply these steps to your own organization. The first step is to identify the gap between existing and desired performance. In order to improve service, we need to clearly identify where we want to be, and compare it to where we are now. For example, let's imagine a chain of healthcare clinics that has recently received a lot of complaints from patients who feel they had to wait too long to see the doctor.
It's not enough to say, "We need to get better." or "We want to reduce complaints." That's too general. We need to define the problem more specifically. Here's what our gap identification might look like. Let's say we look at our Voice of Customer data and notice that 25% of patient complaints are related to long wait times. That's our existing performance. We could then set a SMART goal to reduce wait-time complaints by 50% within three months. This allows us to focus our efforts specifically on reducing wait-time complaints.
The second step is to conduct a root cause analysis. This allows you to pinpoint the specific causes of the problem. It might be helpful to examine three categories identified by customer service researcher John Goodman. Goodman estimates that 50 to 60% of service failures are caused by poor products, services or policies. In other words, it's the company, not the employee that caused the problem. Goodman estimates that 20 to 30% of service failures are caused by customers themselves.
And finally, Goodman estimates that 20 to 30% of service failures are caused by customer service employees. Breaking the problem down into potential categories can help us identify the root cause. One way to do this is to witness the situation firsthand. Let's take a look at some observation notes from a visit to one of the healthcare clinics. We can start with the product, service or policy category. The doctor was running late when the observation was conducted. We might want to find out if this happens on a regular basis, since it could easily cause a lot of complaints.
There's also a lot of paperwork required for new patients. This would make them late for their appointment even if they arrived on time. Perhaps we can find a way to alert patients ahead of time. We might experiment with asking them to come in 15 minutes early for their initial appointment. Another option is to put the paperwork on a website for patients to download and fill out before coming to their appointment. In fact, we might try both approaches as an experiment to see which one works better. Okay, what about the customer? Is there anything we can do to encourage patients to arrive on time? Perhaps we can schedule reminder calls, or we might find some patients prefer to receive reminders via text or email.
This might be another experiment. And when we remind new patients about their appointment, we can remind them about all the paperwork they'll need to fill out, so they won't be surprised by it. Finally, let's look at employees. Our notes suggest the receptionist wasn't very warm or friendly. The receptionist might benefit from some additional coaching, but it might also be a symptom of working with a lot of patients who are upset about their wait time. If we can decrease wait times, the receptionist might suddenly find it a lot easier to be friendly.
One thing the receptionist can do is set clear expectations on wait times. Here, a little coaching will definitely help. As you can see from this example, there might be many root causes. We can probably reduce complaints even if we're only able to address a few of these issues. This brings us to our third step. The third step is to take action. We need to test out some of these ideas, and see if they'll actually reduce complaints about wait time. Now that we've covered the three steps, I invite you to select an aspect of your team service that you'd like to improve.
Identify a service gap, find the root cause and take action to fix it. You can download the Service Quality Improvement Worksheet and use it as your guide. One final tip, involve your employees in this process. Employees can get really energized about outstanding customer service when they get to help solve problems.
- Clearly defining outstanding service for employees
- Evaluating service quality
- Identifying obstacles to outstanding service
- Aligning resources to optimize service delivery
- Calculating the cost of poor service