You see the same scenarios every day as you interact with customers. Patterns start to emerge and you start to make assumptions. In so doing, you may be walking into trouble and great inefficiencies.
Last week I went to renew my driver’s license at the Department of Public Safety (DPS) office. The building was crowded. I stood in a long line waiting for a single person to assist us. I watched as almost half the people ahead of me were turned away because they were in the wrong place or didn’t have the right materials.
Lesson #1: You shouldn’t have to spend human resources repeating the same information over and over again. Put up big signs where customers arrive stating the steps in your process. Put the information up on your website. Automate a branch of your phone tree to repeat these steps or other useful information when customers call.
The woman behind the counter looked at the materials in my hand (a motorcycle operator’s manual) and asked if I was there to take the motorcycle test. I explained that I had come to the office to do two things: renew my regular driver’s license and get a new motorcycle license.
Lesson #2: When you ask a question, listen to the answer. Don’t assume or guess you know what a customer will say.
She handed me a form, gave me a number, and sent me off to wait with the crowd to be called back. Thirty minutes later, my number was called and I went to another counter to be helped. I handed over my form and explained the two licenses I needed. This agent then realized I needed an additional form. She waited while I filled out the form in front of her. I could have gotten the same form when I arrived at the first counter and had plenty of time to fill it out.
Lesson #3: Failure to accurately identify and serve customers’ needs will cause inefficiencies downstream from their initial contact with your business. Because of the way businesses are often structured, the mistake of one person in one department may never come back and bite them. It will, however, hurt the next person a customer deals with. Your company may have inefficiencies galore and not even know it because the cause and effect of problems are in different departments.
The problems I encountered at the DPS office could have been resolved by two things:
- Be proactive in communication from your organization to the customer. You know what most people ask, forget, or need. Help customers self serve by communicating to them before they wait in a line to ask you.
- Listen to customers and don’t assume you know what they will say, need, or do. Once you confirm that this customer’s problem is the same as the last 100 people, you can recall and reuse the same solution. Be careful if the need is different, because a cookie cutter solution will lead to customer confusion and headaches for other employees.