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Building a Strong Customer Service Team

Aug 17, 2007
There are more and more demands being made of front line team members, and sometimes the pressure can be heard by your customer. As the leader of a customer facing team you must be aware of what is going on with your team members - how to best support them, develop their skills and handle some tough situations. Building a strong customer service team is no easy feat. Here are some suggestions for building and strengthening your team:

Hire the right people
Decide up front what skills, strengths and personality you want on the team. The team creates its own culture based on your leadership. Be clear in interviews about what expectations you have for the job, what will create success and how it will be measured. As you narrow down candidates it's a good idea to have them meet a few people on the team. Let the candidates get a feel for the team they may be working with.

Be a team member as well as a manager and leader
A successful team is only as successful as each individual team member. By viewing each role as an integral part of the team, not as a subordinate, each team member feels valued. This results in greater trust, smoother communication and better individual and team results.

Model the behaviour you want to see
As a leader you are the role model for the team. They set the tone based on you. When things go wrong they look to you for help. After a tough customer call it's important that they feel they can tell you about it - for two reasons: you never want to be broad sided by an irate customer or customer issue, and you want your team to have trust in you. You can information gather after a tough call which allows you to identify any trends in product issues or identify any training or interpersonal issues. The sooner these are identified the better.

Jointly set objectives
It's amazing what happens when team members are asked to set monthly objectives! They gravitate toward those tasks that best utilize their skills. Once your team members are clear of the overall objectives they can begin to make them their own. They explore how they can best support and advance the departmental objectives. In a monthly one on one meeting you invite your direct reports to prepare what they each feel are reasonable objectives for the next month. Your role is to ensure that these objectives are moving the individual and team forward in achieving the overall objectives. Delegate any task that you feel is best done by this person if they haven't already added it on to the list. Inform the team member why you would like them to take it on (remember that the buy in is much greater when you provide scope). If the team is working in harmony the progress toward completing these objective increases. Result: a more motivated, productive team.

Handle problems as soon as they arise
Just as we want customer problems to be handled immediately, it's important to assist in problem resolution as soon as it arises. Here's a watch point: you want to let your team members to step out and try new things, take chances and manage the consequences; however you need to be there as the support system if they need you and to help as needed. Be there, be available and be supportive.

Develop your team members
Look at each team member as an individual. If one of your team members is very detail oriented try to give that person process tasks that utilize those strengths. If another team member is a high level type of person who achieves good results with the efforts of others get that person involved in a team project. Taking this individual approach will result in happier, more productive and satisfied team members.

The bottom line is that you as the manager set the tone, direction and expectations for the team. How you work with each person, the team and each situation is an important part of creating a positive, focused and energized team!
About the Author
Canadian Management Centre's Customer Service Training seminars, provide the skills and techniques to improve customer satisfaction.
http://www.cmctraining.org/
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