In Halifax County, Virginia, the retiring Executive Director of Social Services, Betty Wells, reflected on her career. She’s quoted in the Gazette-Virginian article about how she viewed her job. Ms. Wells stated “I see my job as being one that I hire the staff that I think will be the best providers of customer service. Then train them to do their job, let them do their job, expect them to do their job and to do it in a professional way. The employees who work here try to treat everybody the way we would want to be treated.”
In a short statement, she described several keys to great customer service. First, hire people with a propensity to deliver great customer service. Don’t assume every prospective employee enjoys interacting with others, enjoys serving others, would rather meet the need of an individual than complete an administrative task. You’ve got to hire for the right attitude. It’s a lot easier to train someone in a skill than to re-wire someone’s attitude.
Second, formally train the staff – don’t just put them with a co-worker for a day of on-the-job training. Invest in creating a certain high standard of performance from your new staff. I used to work with Accenture (then Arthur Andersen) in the management consulting division. They sent all new hires to a college they owned in Illinois for 3+ weeks to train them in the skills they needed, the work ethic they desired, the culture they wanted, and the method of performing work they expected. While you may not have the time or funding available for 3 weeks of training, you need to devote enough training to ensure high productivity, adherence to key processes, high quality, and an understanding of the culture from Day 1.
Third, tell staff what you expect of them. Many staff complain (when they get their evaluations at year-end) that they didn’t know what was expected, or they didn’t know they weren’t meeting expectations. The more clear you are with your expectations of staff, the better the staff will meet them.
Finally, apply to Golden Rule of customer service to your job. Most recurring customers care how they’re treated, and more than 2/3rd of lost customers leave because they perceive you’re indifferent. You want others to care about you and your needs; treat others likewise.
Learn a little about customer service from this social services leader.
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