Coaching Customer Service

February 8, 2010
“The goal of coaching is the goal of good management: to make the most of an organization’s valuable resources.” —Harvard Business Review

Leaders in today’s rapidly changing business world have determined that there is more to success than catchy advertising campaigns, perceptive product positioning, and shrewd market-share pricing strategies. No matter what
Market trends
the organization—a small business, a professional practice, healthcare facility, or government agency—success comes to those that are dedicated to servicing their customers. Quality alone is not enough, because goods and services are not sold, they are bought. Because thriving in today’s marketplace requires a heightened focus on customers, coaching customer service is an essential tool for organizations to leverage.”

Market trends are showing that certain industries that are thriving in today’s weak economy have been shifting from product-centric to service-centric models. For instance, electronic systems contractors are defining their visions for customer service, discovering customer expectations, recognizing the importance of their customers’ experiences, and making a conscious effort to enhance the customer service skills of their teams. Clearly, a service-centric model would help improve profits in a vast variety of industries. The challenge for the leaders of these high-performing organizations is to shift their focus yet again from managing customer service to coaching it. Delivering excellent customer service does not come from a one-time training program or any “quickfix” initiative. It needs to be an ongoing organizational commitment driven by customer-focused leaders. The ability to coach and provide immediate feedback is critical.

Coaching is a professional development tool that encourages action based on an individual’s increased self-awareness. Through on-going conversations between a coach/supervisor and the employee, synergy is created, which results in the coached person reaching exponentially greater solutions than he/she would have by working on his/her own. In customer-focused organizations, it is essential that managers see themselves as leaders and coaches, not solely as bosses. Coaching is more consistent with the nature of the service process and positive service results than the outdated autocratic, dictatorial style of management.

The purpose of coaching is to increase or improve  the skills of poor performers, leverage  the strengths of stable performers, and challenge  or stretch skills of top performers. Each coaching opportunity can involve more than  one issue, such as employee development, improved customer service skills, or the ability to handle difficult customer situations. The coach should also use each of these opportunities to be a role model of best practices for behavior and performance for excellent customer service.

Coaching in a customer- focused environment emphasizes on-thejob learning and concentrates on actual performance events as they occur.  Effective coaches observe,  listen, and assist their staff in achieving timely results that are critical in today’s highly competitive marketplace. Coaches also give attention to every level of customer service delivery, from the low performers to the superstars, to improve their customer service skills. Whether we are talking about employee-to-employee customer service or employee-to-client interaction, leaders must be able to coach their staff to ensure excellence in customer service delivery.

It is not necessary to ever have coached an athletic team, played a sport, or to have been a performing artist to be a great customer service coach. What is important is that you care enough to share your knowledge, experience, and skills to guide your staff in positive, affirming ways to expand and improve their knowledge, skills, and abilities.

Organizations that place a high value on attracting new customers and dazzling them with their superior service to keep them long term, value the role that coaching plays in developing their workforce. Their proactive approach to employee skills development helps them leverage customer servicecoaching as a strategic advantage.
Keith Cottrell
The ability to effectively coach for excellent customer service deliverywill ultimately have a significant and positive impact on the organization’s bottom-line.

Keith Cottrell (keith@kinetic is the client care center director for Electronics Design Group in Piscataway, New Jersey.

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