Front Line Staff the Best Indicator of Customer Satisfaction
by Phillip J. Boucher
Your company could have the best customer service indicators available, but still lack real data on just how satisfied your customers truly are. Surveys, data mining, letters, and comment cards only give you a small idea of a customer's opinions about your services or products. Many companies ignore the best indicator of just how well they service their customers, and they already pay for it. Front line staff.
There has always been that invisible solid wall that separates front line staff from supervisors and managers. Neither side will step over the line, staff for fear of reprisal and management for fear of capitulating. But there is a saying that is true to business: Managers know how to get the job done. Staff know how to actually do the job. And on this line of separation lies the barbed-wire fence that needs to come down. Staff should not have the fear of telling management exactly how it is, and management should not have the fear of hearing what they don't want to hear.
As a supervisor or manager your daily interaction is mostly with your staff. Yes you may occasionally deal with customers, and may even have close dealing with a select few. But in reality, with all the customer service data your company has collected, do you really know what your customers think? Do you really understand what they want, or how happy they are with your company? Most think so. But if you talk to front line staff, the overwhelming consensus is that you don't have a clue.
Whiny little ungrateful low-paid peons! We are supervisors and managers. We know what customers want. That's why we make better money! Go back to your menial jobs.
Yes, some companies do have that attitude. And if even one person in your organization thinks the same then your company as a whole doesn't have a clue. But the people who work with your customers everyday, serving them, helping them, listening to their praise and complaints, talking one-on-one, keeping them coming back, these are your best customer service indicators. Because as much as you may think that staff don't know anything about running a business and customer service, you'd be dead wrong.
Staff do know what customers want. They know what products and services customers like, dislike, or would like to have. They understand customers' needs. They hear exactly what customers think about your company, good things and bad things that never make it onto surveys, comment cards, or letters of praise or complaints. Sadly, no one asks them what customers truly feel. And when staff try to tell those in the chain of command, they are halted, refuted, and made to feel as if the uppers truly don't care. Staff actually know what works what doesn't.
Here's your chance to change that and get real, honest indicators about customer satisfaction. Motivate your supervisors and managers to actively listen to what staff are saying in regards to customers. Make it a two-way welcome interaction in which staff have no fear of stating exactly what customers are saying, and management has no fear of actually hearing it. Ensure that what staff is saying and managers are hearing makes it way to the top of the pyramid. Embrace the fact that staff are the best data mining technique for true customer satisfaction indicators.
Yes, they may work hard and get little pay for it in the grand scheme of things, but after all, there are more of them than you, there is strength in numbers, and you should utilize that strength to improve every aspect of your customer service program.
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