Customer service professionals interact with customers in many different ways throughout the day and need to be prepared for a variety of possible scenarios. Successful organizations understand that it’s not a good idea for their customer service teams to ‘wing it’ when it comes to taking care of customers and resolving any issues or complaints that may arise.
Customer-focused businesses create what is known as customer service protocols – clearly written guidelines for employees – so they know how to perform tasks and interact with customers. While it may occasionally be necessary to think outside the “protocols box” in any given situation, it’s important to provide this basic guidance so that everyone serving customers is on the same page.
What are Customer Service Protocols?
Customers connect to and experience a business and its service standard through a variety of communication channels, such as:
- Phone or video communication
- Written correspondence
- Email correspondence
- Chat or text
- Social media conversations or direct message=ing
Customer service protocols are very specific guidelines and scripts that need to be followed across all channels to ensure appropriate responses and customer satisfaction. While company protocols will vary depending on the business, sector, and communication style, protocols should ideally be clear and consistent. Let’s go over why protocols are important for maintaining service excellence and a high level of customer satisfaction.
Why are Protocols so Important?
Having a clear set of customer service policies and protocols is not only an important part of employee onboarding and establishing a company culture, but they also help remove any ambiguity an employee may have regarding how to handle different situations. Providing clear guidelines on how to communicate with and treat customers in a way that reflects a company’s core values is essential for long-term business success. Ways in which protocols can benefit an organization include:
Customer-Focused Culture – As mentioned earlier, setting expectations on customer service standards is a core aspect of creating and maintaining a company-wide customer-focused culture. And as we know, a customer-focused culture is the foundation for business longevity and success.
Consistent Customer Experience – Having a solid knowledge base and clarity on company policies ensures that all employees have a consistent response to a customer’s needs or issues. This also helps create a seamless customer experience across all touchpoints, thereby reinforcing a customer’s perception of your brand.
Quality of Service – Creating policies according to high customer service standards and best practices sets a benchmark for anyone in a customer-facing role – and even those not in a customer-facing role – since everyone in a company is either directly or indirectly responsible for the customer experience.
Better Commitment – Having every employee understand and promise to adhere to customer service standards and policies creates a higher level of commitment. Customers know it when a company intends to adhere to its policies and keep its promises.
Enhanced Employee Engagement – Employees thrive in an environment where expectations are made clear. When guidelines are also supplemented by comprehensive customer service training programs, employees experience meaning, value, and empowerment in their work. They also see the results of making customers happy by experiencing positivity in their encirinment and success in their roles.
Examples of Customer Service Protocols
As we went over in a previous blog on the importance of creating a Customer Service Manual – (which is, in fact, a book that contains all customer service policies and protocols) the first step is to have a clearly articulated mission statement that goes over the importance of customer service excellence. From that clarity, customer service policies and protocols will follow. Some commonly adopted protocols include:
- Creating a Code of Conduct – Making expectations clear on employee attire, conduct and behavior are essential for customer service success. A customer service team is the face of your business, so each interaction should convey that they represent a knowledgeable, professional business. This includes in-person, phone, email, and messaging etiquette.
- Ensuring Customer Delight – Instilling a desire in teams to not only serve but delight customers whenever possible with friendly, exceptional service should be one of the key protocols included in any customer service manual.
- Providing guidelines for problem-solving – It is never easy to deal with an upset customer, so providing employees with clear guidelines on how to listen and resolve issues is important. It’s also crucial to clarify at what point it would be prudent to escalate a complaint to a manager or supervisor. Protocols on the follow-up process – to make sure the concern has been completely resolved – are also important.
- Establishing a Reimbursement/Compensation Policy – In escalated cases, it makes business sense to have a budget for reimbursing or compensating customers for a negative experience rather than lose their business or be on the receiving end of negative online reviews! It may even help regain their trust and loyalty to your company if they receive a sincere apology combined with concrete actions to make things right for them.
- Collecting and Analyzing Customer Feedback – As shared in a previous blog, there are multiple ways to collect and analyze customer feedback. All employees should be trained on how to encourage customer feedback across all interactions and note customer comments in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. Understanding and discussing satisfaction surveys, comments, and reviews will help all departments learn what they are doing well and where they could improve their product or service.
- Modifying or Improving Protocols Based on Feedback – Protocols, while very important, shouldn’t be set in stone. Frequent meetings about customer and employee feedback are important so policies can be improved to ensure internal and external service excellence.
In summary, by creating customer service policies and protocols that are rooted in your company’s mission statement and values, you are laying the foundation for customer happiness and long-term success!