How helpful are you . . . really?

When have you had laughably bad customer service?

Restaurants and airlines are common culprits, of course, and our favorite “horror stories” of poor customer service also come from contact throughout the corporate world–financial institutions and cable companies and behemoth retailers. We all know what it feels like to experience voicemail hell, script-reading call centers, or web sites that send you on a clicking merry-go-round. There’s nothing quite like a perky person on the phone asking you, “Is there anything else I can help you with today?” when you haven’t been helped yet at all.

Ours is the caring sector, the helping sector, the compassionate sector. But not really listening, not helping, and leaving a person unsatisfied can be a serious problem with nonprofit organizations, too, although we are loathe to admit it.

Readers of Rich TIPS know that we’ve pointed out before that better customer service is not just a goal in the for-profit world.

Below is a simplified service model that could help your organization analyze where your customer or client activity usually occurs, and where its weaknesses may be. While this may not seem at first glance like an applicable model, every nonprofit’s mission and program delivery probably relates at some point—if only one or two—on this 10-step continuum.

Picture this as the round face of a clock, starting at “noon” and moving clockwise. Where might be some points of improvement?

1.  Greeting. Someone is referred to you, walks in, calls you, emails you, or visits your web site.

2.  Redirect. The person learns that you don’t or can’t help.

3.  Accepting information. Your organization receives data or a document.

4.  Answering a question outright. They ask, you answer.

5.  Providing directions to another entity in your organization who will accept the information. The person can only attain #3 after a second visit/call/click etc. Is there a way you reduce this process to just one step?

6.  Providing directions to another entity in your organization who can answer the question. The person can only attain #4 after a second visit/call/click etc. Again, can you reduce the need for the second step?

7.  Suggesting a range of options for a solution. Can your organization offer more time to listen, to brainstorm?

8.  Providing a specific referral for a solution elsewhere. Make sure that the agency name, phone number or web site you’re providing is still valid.

9. Conduct a transaction. They pay, you provide; or they register for a class, etc.

10.  Follow-up as appropriate. How long has it been since you surveyed your customers and clients to see how you’re actually doing on these steps?

Ask your board or staff in a meeting to share their classic bad-service “horror stories,” and then spend a few minutes exploring whether any of the missteps or assumptions behind these cautionary tales could shed some light on your organization’s own shortcomings.



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