It’s a rare company that can thrive despite its reputation for bad customer service. To be sure, such companies exist, but they’re not common.
Perhaps the company offers a product most consumers simply can’t live without, or the organization is practically a monopoly in a market where people have few choices. Or, maybe the company’s product is so integral to how we work and live that consumers couldn’t avoid it if they tried. (We see you Google!)
Alas, insurance providers generally don’t fall into this category. Instead, good customer service is a differentiator between your team and every other team selling what you sell.
But take heart! In a real sense this is good news. Developing quality customer service is within your control, and the rewards are high.
So here’s the $64,000 question: how do you know if your customer service is good?
Your Customers Say So
Customer praise, whether private or public, is an indication your customer service is good. Notice that you’re not looking for the occasional positive comment, although that’s nice. You’ll know you’re on to something when you’re getting regular positive feedback via multiple channels (e.g., snail mail, email, social media, client surveys) from various delighted customers.
Your Customers Recommend You
It’s one thing for a customer to do business with you herself but another for her to recommend your product or service to someone else. A recommendation is a huge vote of confidence and ought to be regarded as such. When we recommend a product or service, we show our willingness to be held accountable for our opinion. Most people won’t do that unless they’re supremely secure in the quality of that good or service.
Your Customers Stick With You
Repeat business is a big way customers say “well done!” There’s no shortage of insurance agents and no reason for any client to give you his business unless you do your job well.
So when the competition is high, but your customers are loyal, most likely you’re giving them what they want and need (i.e., good customer service).
Customer Complaints Rarely Reach the Executive Level (Or Heaven Forbid, Go Viral)
You know your customer service is good when complaints (and every company has its share of customer complaints) rarely reach the executive level. Most likely, that’s because your team is skilled and adept at resolving conflict before it gets out of hand. Consider this: when your customer service is good, problems solving almost looks easy!
Your CSRs Are Happy
Is a happy employee a guarantee of high performance that positively affects the bottom line? Probably not. As the author of “Employee Happiness Isn’t Enough to Satisfy Customers” put it, employers must “engage employees by giving them both reasons and ways to please customers; then acknowledge and reward appropriate behavior.”
Even so, it’s hard to image that deeply unhappy employees who blame the company for their grim attitudes are treating customers well. Putting aside any intentional malice, these employees most likely don’t possess the zeal necessary to interact with customers in a friendly and solution-oriented manner.
Truth is, we’ve all encountered the robotic, noticeably-lacking-in-enthusiasm CSR who didn’t seem to care whether we ended the encounter satisfied, unsatisfied, or even angry. Happy employees plugged into the company mission have a totally different attitude, and it shows in the way they address customers and their concerns.
Your Customers Are Engaged
Do customers respond to your survey invitations? What about your email or text messages? Are they commenting on your blog? Do they return phone calls? If the answer is mostly yes, your customer outreach is working, and you have the satisfied customers to prove it.
Your Customers Don’t Begrudge You Making a Living
Insurance can be expensive, and most customers are aware that part of the cost goes to pay the services of insurance agents. However, when customers like the job you’re doing, they’re okay with that. Everyone has to make a living, so why shouldn’t you? Plus, you’re serving their needs so you’re worth every penny.
Last Words …
Recognizing what good customer service looks like, or even what it can sow (that is, increased business) is not the same as recognizing how to deliver it. Here, then, are a few tips for creating a work environment that encourages good customer service:
- Hire the right people for the job. Behavioral assessments help employers identify individuals with the traits needed to get the job done.
- Set clear expectations. When employees know what’s expected, they’re in a much better position to perform satisfactorily.
- Invest in quality employee education. Continuing education is a must. When employees are growing personally and professionally, they’re more connected to the business and its customers.
- Treat employees well. What do high performers really want in a job? It’s not a mystery, and a gazillion surveys have already provided the answer to employers with ears to hear. We’re talking good pay and benefits, work/life balance, opportunities for advancement, a chance to impact the business, and a sense that their bosses care about them as people. Anyone who’s getting all that in a job won’t be going anywhere anytime soon and will take pride in doing the best job possible.
- Develop policies that provide as much responsibility as your employees can handle. Intelligent policies that actually allow for decision-making and problem solving will be welcomed by your team and your customers. On the other hand, policies that tie the hands of employees and prevent them from making customers happy are challenging all the way around.
Even companies that can afford bad customer service don’t want it. However, it’s not enough to merely think your customer service is good. Knowing is so much better.