Internal customer service guidelines and manuals are essential to the success of your training program and your customer service staff. These resources can be difficult to develop, but they will greatly simplify training. If you don't yet have a manual, prepare and organize a file of recent customer service communications -- e-mail messages, letters, and notes from phone conversations (or call logs, if you keep them) -- and make preparing your training manual part of your first customer service representative's job responsibilities.
Consider these areas when developing your in-house training materials:
Define Acceptable Behavior
Good customer service involves more than just setting high standards and being friendly with customers. Perhaps the most important thing to instill in your customer service reps is this: If you can't keep your cool, pass the customer off to your supervisor. You do not want your employees to take a customer's abuse, nor do you want your customers to be treated rudely by your reps. Give your reps resources for handling difficult calls, such as:
- A script for putting someone on hold
- A process for having a supervisor take over a difficult call if the representative feels he or she can no longer provide quality service to the customer on the phone
- Automatic postponement of delivery of all e-mail for half an hour (make sure reps know how to retrieve an e-mail message that was sent in haste)
Provide a Complete Set of Product and Company Documentation
Make sure your representatives have a complete set of product descriptions available at their desks. They should also have some written materials on your company's history, its chief executives, and its mission. Also, provide an outline of the procedures for logging their work, including a sample call log and instructions on how they should collect their e-mail responses to customers for you to review later.
Develop Response Schedules
Decide how quickly you want your staff to respond to customer inquiries. Within minutes? Hours? Days? The speed of your response in many ways will dictate its quality. For example, if your policy is to respond to customer e-mail inquiries within half an hour, your initial response will probably contain little more than an acknowledgment that your company has received the customer's message. But if you require a response within a working day, then it's likely that your initial response will contain more information and perhaps even a resolution to the customer's question. Here are some common guidelines:
- For standard questions regarding product information, a 24-hour turnaround is generally acceptable.
- Problems that require management decisions must be identified and flagged for an immediate response, and some may require a phone call to the customer.
- Friendly customer suggestions should be identified, filed, and responded to in good time, but they do not require immediate attention.
Provide a Clear Chain of Authority and Escalation
Some problems cannot be resolved on the phone or by a customer service rep. Decide whether you will give representatives the authority to find answers to customer questions by interviewing other members of your staff. Outline specific offers the reps can make to appease unhappy customers -- such as offering a discount or a free gift -- and the situations in which to make those offers. Try to determine when a problem will require intervention from you or other executives on our staff. For example, you may want to handle inquiries from specific customers or clients yourself. You might set a monetary threshold, such as all customer service issues that deal with orders higher than $500 should be routed to you.
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