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Balancing service quality and volume

Customer Service - Modern copyThis is the fifth post in a series that will explore a set of questions I received from participants during a recent webinar on the topic of customer service.

Question: How do you balance providing “above and beyond” customer service with being efficient with the volume of inquiries you receive? In some cases the extra effort will simultaneously take additional time, so how do you know when the cost is outweighing the benefit?

An effective employee uses her judgment and discernment to regulate the time spent on customer inquiries. When volume is up, she spends less time on each individual query. When volume is down, she’s free to add that “little extra” to the customer service she provides. Regardless of volume, she recognizes that it often takes no more time to provide exceptional customer service than not. For instance, it takes no more time to convey authentic enthusiasm for serving customers by adding energy to one’s voice or to express genuine interest in customers by “smiling into the phone.” These behaviors enhance the quality of one’s customer service without added cost or time.

Recall that exceptional customer service is often unexpected by customers. In a contact center environment, customers expect for their inquiry to be addressed, but may not expect “above and beyond” customer service. When it does occur (or, more accurately, when circumstances enable it to occur), because it was unexpected, customers may be pleasantly surprised and form a lasting positive impression of the service experience.

In response to the cost outweighing the benefit, this occurs any time the servicing of one customer displaces the satisfaction of another. If you’ve ever stood in a line of customers while the service provider carried on a personal conversation with the customer being served, then you know what I’m talking about. The customer being served might be “delighted” that the employee expressed genuine interest in his latest vacation and the well-being of his grandchildren but if this comes at the expense of the satisfaction of the five customers standing in line, the cost may have outweighed the benefit.

This doesn’t mean that the immediate transaction needs to be rushed and the customer be made to feel like an interruption. It simply requires the employee to understand the tactical nuance of regulating her customer service in a way that best serves all customers. And if this cannot be done without making customers feel rushed, then the service model must be revisited. Perhaps more staff is required to field inquiries or improved self-service options are needed to better accommodate demand?

How do you balance customer service quality and volume?

Don’t settle for ordinary. Choose extraordinary. (It’s always a choice.) Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.

Watch the 90-second book trailer.

Illustration by Aaron McKissen.

Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.
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