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How Department Divisions Can Hurt Customer Relations
In last week’s post Differentiate Your Business With Quality Customer Service, one of the tips listed touched on department divisions, which I would like to take the opportunity to elaborate on a bit.
When I say department divisions, I am specifically referring to the common element of many businesses, to have a department (or individual) assigned to each task related to the business, such as marketing/sales, accounting, legal, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to indicate that having departments in your company is a bad thing. In fact, in and of itself, it is not. What can lead to poor customer service is your employees’ attitudes about their specific department.
“That’s not my department.” Ever heard that phrase before? It is the result of a company that does not adequately train its employees as to their responsibility to the customer. More directly, if you business has departments for everything, but not a specific customer service department, customers are likely to hear this from your employees if they call with a problem.
“That’s not my department” should never be spoken by your employees. A phrase like that makes the customer feel as though their problem isn’t important enough for your employee to help them with. The customer, as I stated last week, feels obsolete and passed around. Not good.
Instead, make it a point to train your employees to handle the situation in a caring and sympathetic manner, regardless of whose department the problem relates to. In fact, whichever employee takes the customer’s call initially, should remain directly involved in the process of getting the problem fixed.
For example, let’s say your company provides a number of services, such as lawn care and house cleaning, and you have a specific person in charge and specific employees assigned to each service. And, let’s say that generally, anyone who is available answers the phone at your main office.
One day a customer calls upset because your business just did landscaping to his yard a week ago and he has noticed that a couple of the items planted are dying. But Nancy, who works for the housecleaning part of your company, answered the phone. She knows nothing about plants. In fact, you might say she has a “black thumb.” And she knows very little about the company’s policy regarding the guarantees on the landscaping part of the business. What should she do?
First of all, as stated, her response should absolutely never be “that’s not my department.” There are simply better ways to do it than that. Additionally, she doesn’t need to say “I don’t know” either. She should, first of all, get as much information from the customer as she can, including an explanation of what is wrong, the customer’s name, location, phone number, etc. Then she has one of two options:
Let the customer know that she is happy to help, but needs to check on a few things before she gives him information. She doesn’t, after all, want to tell him something inaccurately. Nancy should ask if she can call him back (giving a time frame, such as within the hour, by the end of the day, etc). Once the customer agrees, Nancy can find out the information she needs and call back with that information, within the time frame promised (going over that time frame again makes the customer feel unimportant).
Or, Nancy can assure the customer that his problem will be resolved, but in order to make sure he has the best possible service, she is going to let him speak to a lawn care specialist. Keep in mind that Nancy shouldn’t even indicate that she doesn’t do lawn care. She just needs to give the impression that the customer’s issue is so important to her that she wants to make sure he gets the best possible service by talking to someone who really knows their stuff.
If at all possible, Nancy should put the customer through to that individual immediately. If no one is available, she should, again, get all information and provide a time frame when the “specialist” will return the customer’s call. And, as indicated, Nancy should stay connected to the entire process by assuring the customer that she will personally give the other employee the message and make sure that the customer’s call is returned.
It may be just a simply phrase to some, but “that’s not my department” just isn’t the best way to handle a customer whose problem you don’t know how to solve. Make sure that your employees are adequately trained to make each customer feel like he/she is the number one priority (because they really are), which means whoever it may be that answers the call needs to see it through to the end, whether it is that employees department or not.
Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
Differentiate Your Business With Quality Customer Service
What Ever Happened to Customer Service?
Knowing Your Customers
How Accessible are You?
6 Steps to Successful Sales