You know that all customer-facing employees need to handle customer concerns with due care and a degree of finesse. But, do you realize that the people in your company who never see customers also have a great deal to do with the customer experience?
Everyone in your company should view their roles with a customer perspective.
Let’s look at 6 common business functions to examine how they affect the level of service that you bring to your customers.
1. Product and Service Creators
The employees who make products or perform services don’t always have customer face time, but customers specifically pay for their output. Clearly, customer opinions drive the possibility of future orders.
Open communication is a key factor in getting it right. Employees who know that they can speak up will come to you freely if they detect any issues that might affect quality or timely delivery. And, if you invite customer feedback that can reveal minor issues before they become bona fide problems, you can expect kudos rather than complaints when you deliver.
I also advocate having a CCO (Chief Customer Officer) that can consistently bring customer feedback into the product design process to ensure that what is being built is what the customers want — or at least need!
2. Sales and Marketing
Your sales team communicates directly with customers. As a general rule, your marketing team communicates to customers only through various media. Either way, however, the honesty and integrity of their messages go a long way toward affecting your company’s reputation.
The Federal Trade Commission is the ultimate watchdog for the observance of sometimes-vague and confusing Truth in Advertising legislation. They have recently kept pretty busy monitoring company messaging — sometimes imposing hefty fines for noncompliance. And, if you don’t understand the laws, well, just remember this doctrine: ignorance of the law excuses no one.
As a general rule, make sure that your sales team avoids making unrealistic promises about your products or services. The same thing goes for your marketing campaign — and, perhaps it’s best to avoid too much photo manipulation when developing advertising for your products or services. Even if it isn’t a legal issue, it’s a best practice to have that authenticity with customers.
The members of your Purchasing Department probably believe that they are pretty well-insulated from customer service concerns. Still, a team that buys products for resale or for materials used in your products or services clearly affects the quality that customers receive.
Even if purchases are limited to common office supplies, they impact the ability of everyone in your company to support customers. Few businesses are so paperless that they can provide everything that customers need without ever needing paper and pens, right?
Your Purchasing team needs to understand this connection when it strikes lines between price, quality and delivery speed. And, make sure that they establish backup relationships for all key vendors so you’ll never be caught short-handed.
A well-oiled Accounting Department seldom interacts directly with customers — as long as things run smoothly. Still, when things go wrong, the mighty dollar controls many aspects of your customer relationship.
Good customers do not want to make a call to rectify erroneous late payment notices or to correct billing amounts that fail to recognize a specially-negotiated discount. They are probably already somewhat irate when they make the call and they are seldom mollified by explanations of what went wrong.
Accuracy and internal communication are key factors in reducing direct communication between customers and your Accounting team. Keep the team well-informed about any issues that stray outside the lines of normal procedures (like those special negotiated discounts), and encourage them to notify you of issues that might be leading to customer concerns.
On the pricing side, don’t let accounting drive penny-wise, pound-foolish decisions. You may find that raising your margins via price increases or material quality decreases equal less customers and less revenue in the long run.
5. Internal Technical Support
If your company grinds to a halt when the server goes down, then you readily recognize the importance of a technical support team. Your customers never meet them, but when things don’t work properly, this team packs a whollop to the customer experience.
Spending on a skilled in-house or outsourced technical support team is a great investment in the reliability of your business operations. The ability to fulfill customer needs with no excuses leads to their satisfaction.
6. Human Resources
Your HR Department also provides a vital type of internal support that certainly affects your customers. They not only help find the people who support customers, but they do everything possible to keep your team happy, from administering compensation and benefits to helping settle minor internal disputes that inevitably arise from time to time. Make sure that every member of this team recognizes the true extent of their value, both to the business and to its customers. Heck, take them to lunch.
Every employee is customer-facing, so let them know it.
Recognizing the connection between all employees and your customers adds meaning to every job and enhances performance. Make the effort to recognize all employees for their importance to the customers. It’s the best way to express their importance to the business, too.
Carol Roth is a radio host on WGN, a CNBC TV contributor, a ‘recovering’ investment banker & a bestselling author of The Entrepreneur Equation. You can find her on Twitter @CarolJSRoth or at www.CarolRoth.com. She also has an action figure made in her likeness.