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An organization’s impact on the community is directly influenced by the customer service it provides. One of my own aha! moments was at the beginning of my career, working at the Cat Adoption Team  (CAT), where I assisted customers adopting, relinquishing, or seeking veterinary care for cats.

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At CAT, I learned the importance of communicating in a positive, persuasive, and instructive way. In that role, communication was my best tool to keep cats happy and healthy in their loving homes, instead of abandoned, mistreated, or the target of resentment. I realized that the ability to get your message across is your power to create change.

I’ve learned more about this skill through my continuing work in customer service-focused roles. Although every environment is different, there are a few shared elements that I believe help create a successful, effective customer experience.

 

From the Organization

A Motivating Mission

Dana Wade

An organization needs a mission that is understandable and motivating, and that generates commitment. This mission is the foundation on which everything else is built.

 

Leadership that Inspires

Leaders - with both formal and informal power - help communicate the organization’s mission through words and actions. Leaders who do this consistently provide their team with a lasting motivation to serve the organization and its customers.

 

Sufficient Staffing

Staffing in animal organizations is usually lean, and oftentimes the founders are overextended, working hands-on with the animals in addition to managing the business. A healthier model includes scheduled office time each week, along with the addition of staff with expertise in and time for business operations.

 

Truly a Team

A team is at its best when its members buy into the organization’s culture and feel support at all levels. These team members have a drive for individual success, but also trust each other to work collaboratively towards their shared mission, and do not feel the need to compete for resources or knowledge.

 

Dedicated Training

Michele Massey

With resources often stretched thin, it can be tempting to throw new employees right into the work and let the team learn by doing. Unfortunately, this can lead to important gaps in knowledge and a feeling of constant stress.

Experts theorize that learning happens in stages, starting with reading and memorizing, and moving towards more complex application and interaction. In addition, it has been discovered that multitasking decreases quality of work - in fact, it likely takes well over 20 minutes to return to a task after being interrupted. With that in mind, the importance of scheduled training with clear goals and documentation becomes clear.

 

Safe and Secure

Fear impedes our ability to learn and perform. At the most basic level, being safe at work means we are physically safe. In the animal field, threats to safety can include fractious animals, physically violent co-workers, and even individual mental health issues. Safety can be improved by being aware of these issues while hiring and managing people, and in creating and implementing effective guidelines for animal care.

At a broader level, safety at work can mean being protected from verbal abuse, retribution, and unwarranted termination, and being able to appropriately care for ourselves and our health. To ensure this type of safety, organizational leaders should prioritize building a healthy culture where conflict can be addressed in a productive fashion and self-care is demonstrated and rewarded.

 

Looking at the Individual

Customer-Focused Communication

Weak communication skills can lead to a bad customer experience, but strong communication skills can magnify your impact on the customer. Good communication is rooted in having emotional intelligence (being self-aware and generally in control of your emotions), understanding the barriers customers may have in communicating, and articulating information in an adaptive, easy to understand way. Here are a few basic tips for good communication:

  1. Listen closely for the customers’ needs beyond their stated goals.
  2. Empathize and develop genuine interest.
  3. Try expressing your message in different ways to see what the customer responds to best.
  4. If you cannot provide the service the customer is looking for, do your best to help find a resource that can.

 

Technical Knowledge and Elevations

cat 2374290 960 720To provide quality customer service, it is important to be familiar with your organization’s products and services. It is also good to recognize when you don’t have the answer and where to get more information. It can be helpful to create an elevation resource divided by category, and if resources allow, you can also create an internal web page or wiki to make information accessible to all. Google Sites, Google Drive, and Weebly are just a few of the free resources you can use to build this.

 

Optimistic Outlook

Kristin Tondra True 1

We are all allowed our bad days, but an overall optimistic attitude can improve quality of work. A desire to impact others positively, along with the knowledge that you have the power to actually do so, leads to motivation and a sense of empowerment. These feelings can help you keep going in a field that is often emotional and draining. Looking for the best in your peers, managers, and customers also lets you show more gentle empathy in your interactions with them, showing compassion in situations that might otherwise cause conflict.

 

Connecting Through Curiosity

Curiosity is a proactive quality that leads to engagement with peers, processes, customers, and the organization. Healthy curiosity can lead to more genuine interaction with others. It can also create continuous improvement to organizational workflows, which need to keep up with the pace of change in our world. On a greater level, curiosity can even lead to major scientific discoveries and advances in the field.

 

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