<i>Dear Workforce</i> How Can HR Help Boost Customer Service

February 5, 2004
Dear Root Causes:

Customer-service does have a strong connection toHR practices. The first steps I would suggest are motivation, training, inquiry, and measurement.
Motivation can be provided by information, modeling, and involving people in different areas and levels in the process. Senior leaders should visibly support the strategy of building the customer service chain, and maintain their visible commitment to it over time. Personal appearances and modeling--e.g. talking to customers a la Sam Walton-- can help.
Some leaders may be more motivated by the many studies that link supplier and employee issues to customer issues--and customer issues to profit (or other key outcomes). The company can also do its own studies to show the importance of the customer-service chain, and employees' roles in building it.
Training provides people with knowledge about how they can provide effective service, including dealing with dissatisfied and angry customers. It should be tailored to your organization so that people can gain immediately useful knowledge. Motivation without training can be frustrating. Training without motivation is pointless.
Inquiry includes surveying your employees to identify obstacles to service. Surveys can provide you with data to convince suppliers that change is needed and help them to provide you with the product or service changes you need. Surveys and qualitative tools such as focus groups show internal strengths and weaknesses, and motivate people for change.
On the customer side, inquiry for troubleshooting and feedback can include content analysis of complaints or, as Chrysler's Five Star program for dealers requires, simply calling customers to get their feedback. This program is very effective for committed dealers.
Measurement includes surveys and other customer measures (e.g. number of complaints) which show progress and help people to troubleshoot weaknesses.
Customer data can also be used as a lever with suppliers.
Other powerful tools for change which may be harder to implement include reward systems, teams, use of information technology (e.g. CRM), and geographic changes (including simple changes such as rearranging where people work). Ideally, all these tools will be used to transform the culture and process to institute a strong customer-service chain.
SOURCE: David Zatz, Senior Consultant, Toolpack Consulting, Teaneck, New Jersey, March 6, 2003.
The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.
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