Cohesion Builds Exceptional Customer Service Teams
ICMI recently asked ten of their customer service thought leaders to weigh in on what’s important in 2016 for building exceptional customer service teams. I was honored to share my opinion and thought it only fitting to expand on my answer. First of all, here’s what I submitted to ICMI:
(As I type that, I realize I spelled “dialog” two different ways in my statement. Thanks Google for confirming that both spellings are correct.)
A great customer experience is critical to the success of any business. Customer service teams are the ones speaking directly with customers and hearing firsthand what’s working and what isn’t working in the customer experience. The ability to work together as a customer service team to determine the key ways to improve that experience is critical. The next key component is the ability to work effectively with others within the organization, whether it be marketing, operations, or IT, to share and execute on those improvements. At the very center of that equation is the ability to communicate effectively and work together, and that requires some level of team cohesion.
When I talk about team cohesion, I’m talking about the ability for customer service team members to communicate effectively, both with one another, as well as with others in the other departments in the organization. Focusing first on cohesion within the team, leadership needs to put in the work to make communication strong. Here are three great ways to foster this on your teams:
- Learn about each other – Having members of your team complete a personality or learning assessment and then discussing in a group setting can be a powerful tool in helping them learn about each other and how to better communicate. Some great assessments include Strengthsfinder, DISC, and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
- Have fun together – There’s no substitute for activities inside and outside of work in building camaraderie among the team. Find ways to have fun together and you’ll work better together.
- Dialog often – Regular dialog about the customer experience with the team is essential. Trust me when I say that you’ll never have to pull words out of a customer service team when you ask them what is and isn’t working about the customer experience. When you engage them in this discussion and then circle back throughout the process until some of their suggestions have been implemented, you show them that their voice and the voice of the customer are valued.
Great communication isn’t easy for teams. It takes practice, consistency, trial and error, and a whole lot of effective leadership, but it’s well worth the time and effort.
The other ingredient for great customer service teams is the ability to work well with the other teams and departments in the organization. In many cases, improving the customer experience depends on it. Perhaps it’s an issue where marketing needs to communicate better, or IT needs to fix a bug, or leadership needs to change a policy. All of these work a whole lot better with some cohesion. Here are three ways to create inter-team cohesion:
- Build a relationship – Be careful not to only communicate with folks in other departments when you need something. Do the work to find out about them and their interests and make a connection with them. Put your customer service skills to work! Depending on the size of the organization, fun activities and learning assessments can work across multiple departments as well. When the rapport is there, it makes the ask a whole lot easier.
- Connect regularly – In many cases, the other departments crave insight into what customers are saying about the company. Initiate meetings on a regular rhythm to share and discuss these insights. This proves to them that customer service wants to actively collaborate on any and all initiatives to make the customer experience better.
- Be prepared – Don’t just show up to those meetings with anecdotal information. Be sure you have some numbers to back up the key initiatives. If you can show the impact on customer satisfaction or on customer churn, this will go a long way in proving that it’s a big issue. Check out a post I wrote a few months ago about my experience with this.
If I had to pick just one way to build an exceptional customer service team, team cohesion would definitely be it— but that’s me. Click here to check out the other nine responses. What’s your number one tip for building exceptional customer service teams?