26 Aug Customer Service Accountability
Customer service accountability is one of the most common traits of an excellent customer experience.
There are 2 main reasons for this:
- For a truly excellent customer experience, everyone has to stand up and be counted. One weak link in the organisational chain and the customer experience suffers.
- Customers get frustrated talking to people who can’t help them
Real customer service accountability means taking control of all situations – whether or not the initial challenge or failing is your responsibility.
- So despatch have messed up? Don’t just send an internal message: sort it.
- The customer has made a mistake? Help them put it right
- You’ve passed the ticket onto someone else? Call them, check on progress, and update the customer
All too often, however, organisations suffer from excuses, passive aggressive behaviours and a range of dubious justifications as to why the responsibility lies elsewhere.
Why is this? Well, because modern workplaces are challenging, frustrating places. It’s hard enough to do your own job – coping with all the demands, unfair criticism and incompetence of others – without taking up every lost cause that crosses your desk.
But it’s that instinct to accept responsibility that really makes a differences. We hear it time and time again in positive CX stories and testimonials where customers rave about ‘finally talking to a human, not a robot’ or having someone who can use ‘common sense’ and break through the ‘bureaucratic nightmare’.
Building customer experience accountability
Customer service accountability is a mindset or attitude rather than a skill, and might be present or absent for a number of reasons. Organisational culture, the example of leaders, KPIs, rewards and the performance management framework can all influence personal accountability (and the barriers of it).
On an organisational level, therefore, an important first step is to give people the freedom to take responsibility – and then reward them for it. Nurturing an understanding of different jobs and opinions can also build the respect and trust needed for individuals to act confidently and assertively.
Often, however, it comes down to individual psychology, personal priorities and a range of limiting beliefs that stop people acting more assertively in the customer’s interests: confidence, resentments, anxiety about personal productivity and more.
Where someone offers excuses or acts in a passive aggressive manner, it is important for any leader/supervisor to seek to understand, and coach more productive behaviours, rather than criticise:
- In an ideal situation, what could / should you have done?
- What prevented you from acting more assertively in this instance?
- Who’s problem is this?
- What could you have done to overcome this challenge?
- What can I/others do to help you?
- How could you act more assertively next time?
Giving the individual a touch of validation here can often help. Yes, despatch/sales/colleagues might have made mistakes, but that shouldn’t impact on your pursuit of the best customer outcome. Its about encouraging a forward-looking, results-focused attitude which should of course be more rewarding for the individual.
Often the excuses and dubious self-justifications have at least some validity. (typically the more intelligent or cerebral the individual, the better the logic) but the persistent manager/coach can nearly always help identify a more productive response or behaviour.
Improving customer service accountability is a challenge that often required changes at both an individual or organisational/team level. Culture, leadership, role definitions and performance management are all important – but so is the ability of individual leaders to coach people to more productive behaviours.