customer-servicejpgWant to bring out the best in your customers and your staff?  Do you want to feel like your time on the job is worth more than the exchange of dollars for time and effort? Do you want to work with staff that knows how to change course when their toughest customers aren’t so happy?

Here are seven strategies to improve your workplace and make even your toughest customers proud to do business with you.

Be a champion of excellence. It only takes one person to champion the change of an entire company culture.

When you declare yourself a champion of customer service excellence, you start thinking and acting like a champion.

Champions aren’t interested in mere satisfaction; they thrive on excellence. People are drawn to champions. Enrolling others into the champion mentality means treating your staff, coworkers, and customers as the champions they can be. Your inspiration can change the direction of even the most difficult workplace environments.

Create a happy workplace environment.  Ask yourself, “If I had no ties to this company, what would make me want to get up in the morning and come to work here?” That question is the catalyst for making critical changes to your company culture. Your staff members are your internal customers. Happy committed employees translate to happy committed customers.

Put yourself in a position of passion.   When you ask a room full of people what they love to do, it’s no surprise that you get a whole array of different answers. Some people love working with facts and statistics, others hate it. Some like working with their hands, others detest it. Some have a passion for serving customers; others develop excellent customer service skills because they have a passion for developing skills. Get in touch with your passion and put it to work at work.

Be Entrepreneurial – even if you don’t own the company.   It will change the way you think about work. Think of yourself as the president of your own career.  Notice how it changes the way you conduct yourself throughout the day.

Face your fears instead of avoiding them.  It’s tempting to avoid confronting an employee who is causing problems with your staff. “I’ll deal with him later,” you might think, avoiding the discomfort of his demeanor. I once worked on a project with a person who believed ‘avoid it and maybe it will go away.’ I called a meeting and this person explained, “You know that book The Power of Now? Well, I’d like to write a book called The Power of Later, because I find if I leave things alone long enough, the problems resolve themselves.”  Yikes!  Okay, it is true that there are situations that benefit from a little time and space.  However, when you use time and space to avoid rather than unify, you create bigger problems. Fear is an indicator that it’s time to grow. Seek out the advice of someone who is stellar at handling the issues that challenge you. Role play with a trusted advisor to grow your comfort with uncomfortable situations. The more proactive you become in resolving conflict, the greater your results.

Appreciate the virtues of (Gladys) your challenging customer. Gladys represents that customer who holds the potential of being a vocal advocate of your company. Gladys tends to start out prickly, but when you manage your own emotions and creative problem solving abilities, magic happens. Gladys is a gift offering you insight into problems that other customers aren’t willing to share. She jabs at the wounded areas of your company that, left untreated, fester into “dis-ease” that eventually (or immediately) impact the profitability and well-being of your business and career. When you don’t take it personally, you become her personal guide to resolution, and you gain a devoted fan who reaps the rewards of ongoing referrals.

Measure your success. You get what you measure. When you want to improve customer service, put measurement tools into place to gauge your progress. It can be as simple as asking a customer at the end of their visit, “How could we make your experience with us even better next time?” This non-threatening question makes customers feel comfortable sharing what they normally wouldn’t bother to tell you.

Take surveys, but don’t be obnoxious about it. Make it worth the customer’s time to answer the survey by offering a form of thank you for their time. If you want to take your customer service success to the highest level, seek out feedback. Don’t perceive feedback as a threat or as criticism. See it as information to consider and possibly as instruction to follow. Your service skills will skyrocket.