After more years than I would like to count of managing teams in both retail and wholesale environments I have learned one very important fact – I would be nothing without my staff. They have always been just as they are now, my greatest resource. A high-performing staff can make a business or practice great while a low-performing staff can kill one. Having a great team creates an atmosphere that is contagious. Your customers will want to be part of it and will continue to come back as a result of it.
It takes work to create good team driven employees that want to serve customers. It doesn’t happen by accident. You will need a focused, strategic, and consistent approach to develop a customer service minded team. Here are a few key factors that could help you develop a team that will represent your practice well while creating a loyal customer base through superior customer service.
1) Give your staff room, a voice, and data
An engaged employee knows that they have some control of not only their future, but also over the direction of the business. Do not micro-manage. Sit down with your team and with their input, set clear, realistic goals; then turn them loose. Make sure to supply tracking for their goals.
Our customer service team here at IcareLabs has a 98% answer rate goal. This is a high goal and at one point some felt it was unreachable. After some discussion with the team, we felt that the 98% answer rate was attainable so we set the goal.
I trust my team and know that they are adults, they wake up each morning and put their big girl or boy britches on. I do not need to yell, scream, or constantly get in their business. We reach our answer rate goal over 80% of the time by simply giving them a report every morning of the previous day’s phone report. They manage themselves. I simply give them the information and they tend to make the changes that are needed to get the job done without my input.
Trust your team. Give them the room and ownership in their future and they will become engaged.
2) Teach them the value of your products and services
I often see people in our industry hiding or even apologizing for the price of products we see. Make sure your staff understands the value of a pair of glasses.
This is all part of giving them “ownership” into the business. Make sure they understand the benefits of the products for their patients. This is simply done by educating them on the products themselves. Take advantage of any and all free training that is out there, whether it be from a vendor rep or the Resource Center on our website.
Be intentional with training. Assign weekly product training, share informative articles with your staff, and make it fun! Give them little 5 question quizzes and if they get it all correct bring some bagels in or give them a $5 gift card for a cup of coffee.
3) Cross-train your staff
Cross-training has multiple advantages for all involved. It makes it much easier for everyone to handle when someone is out. It also creates a better experience for the person who is out. It is sad to see a valued long term employee who is afraid to take vacation because there is nobody capable of taking his or her place. This is just plain wrong to do to a person.
Cross-training also allows your staff a break from the grind of doing the same job day after day. There will be a better understanding of the good and bad of each staff member position which allows for more empathy. This empathy will create a more solid team.
The investment for this is high, but well worth it for the long-term benefits including an increase to patient satisfaction at your optical.
4) Exceeding your customers’ expectations should be the norm
Teach your team to provide “above the call of duty customer service”. To create a customer that is a crazed, loyal fan of your business you have to go beyond just providing what the customer expects. Loyalty is born from truly outstanding customer service by going above & beyond.
Very few people have the mindset of a great customer service representative; it has to be taught. It is as much from the heart as it is from the head. While you can get many to go from good to great, you will rarely get someone to go from poor to good. Serving others comes from loving others and not everyone is wired that way. This is a trait that must be spotted during hiring.
Train your team on customer service. Set examples how you want it done. Make sure to never talk bad about the customer and do not allow it in your office. This will become a cancer to great customer service. Preach the truth to your staff. They should all know and understand that while the paycheck might come from you, it is the customer that supplied the funds. You and your staff's food, clothing, and housing are all supplied by the customer. With this thought in mind, they deserve our very best.
Reinforce good customer service with “gold stars” each time you see an employee provide customer service that truly goes above and beyond. These “gold stars” could be little gift cards, points that could lead to a day off, or simply a button that says “I gave great customer service today”. Again, make it fun. Whatever you decide to do here will have a very positive ROI because outstanding customer service will grow your practice.