FPRA 2009 Annual Conference: Counselors’ Network Roundtable, Customer Service for Corporate Reputation Management

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At this luncheon roundtable, Jennifer Moss, APR, CPRC, facilitated an interactive roundtable discussion about customer service and its impact on your bottom line and overall image of your company.

Word of mouth is one of the strongest ways people get information. It’s easy for you to be either destroyed or get raving fans through word of mouth carried by your customers.

Peter Shankman said yesterday that social media is about giving your customers the voice to do PR for you. Exactly!

Customer service really impacts your bottom line. It’s hard to convince a board that customer service has this impact. But it does—your customers are out there telling your story for you. If you already have a positive investment in your reputation, when or if something goes wrong, your good image will go a long way for you.  Studies show that if you have a good image base to start and a bad experience occurs that you can fix, your company can have an even bigger customer impact than if you do something right to begin with. How do you get there?

The nine principles of customer service:

  1. Commit to excellence. It has to be at all levels and your CEO has to buy in.
  2. Measure the important things. You have to know where you are so you can determine where you are going and how you will get there.  Look at service, quality, financial indicators, people and growth.
  3. Build a culture around service. Consider scripting behaviors, standards of performance, and other tools for each level of staff. (Jennifer has two examples of Standards of Behavior she created or implemented for hospitals. She will e-mail them to you upon request.) Training is very important.  Don’t make excuses or place blame if something happened, but listen, apologize and move on. Thank the person who brought the issue to your attention.
  4. Create and develop leaders.  You want your leaders to model the positive behavior and ingrain it in every aspect of your organizational culture.
  5. Focus on employee satisfaction. Use internal surveys to see if your employees feel supported and have the tools to do their jobs.
  6. Build individual accountability.  To get your workforce motivated, you must align the customer service requirements goals with each employee—including your annual performance appraisals for instance.
  7. Align behaviors with goals and values.  New potential hires should be asked to review the customer service standards to determine whether they can strongly adhere to the principles before they moved forward for consideration.
  8. Communicate on all levels. Internal communications is essential.
  9. Recognize and reward success.  Consider annual ceremonies to acknowledge improvements, excellent scores, etc. to really make an impact with the employees and morale. Employee thank you notes sent to the home are an excellent way to recognize strong customer service.

Anything you can do to get people competitive about customer service is very important!

If you have volunteers on your team, you need to involve the training protocols and most of what you do for staff with them as well.

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