Time for Boot Camp
Providers must shape their staff into Customer Engagement Officers.
As the evolution of customer service continues, so does the way HME businesses measure success, coach our teams and provide "knock your socks off" customer care. In today’s HME business-model what once was a collection of staffers should be, for all intents and purposes, a unified customer service team. The scope and depth of interaction with your customer, both internal and external, whether on the phone or in the showroom, is growing exponentially and you need to have a unified, highly informed and skilled response.
Recently I worked with an amazing group of dedicated customer service agents who knew their products, understood the complexity of their organization, and served both their internal and external customers with precision and care. They truly delivered that "knock your socks off" customer care. Their leader was a great individual who came through the rank and file to become the leader of this dynamic team. As we discussed the role of her team, she made the following statement about how she viewed the team role in serving the customer: She said, "we are Customer Engagement Officers."
WOW, YES and AMEN! She described it perfectly. The role of the customer service staffers at HME providers is Customer Engagement Officer. But let’s be real: we all know that a title means nothing without a clarity and purpose to support it. So what does that mean, exactly?
When we look at how to transform our customer service team we need to go to boot camp. For those of us who served in the military, boot camp was truly the genesis of our transformation from civilian to military life — an indoctrination, a new identify, a calling, a purpose, a regimented training that created life-long behaviors. So, what does a "Customer Engagement Officer Boot Camp" look like? There are seven Boot Camp steps that will transform your team and your patient/customer engagement:
Let’s start by aligning our team with our mission, vision, and purpose. This goes beyond a mission statement and embraces why we are here and what our service needs to not just look like but feel like to the customer.
Indoctrination and Direction
Now we need to review our processes and make sure that they resonate with the type of service we want to deliver. Boot camp is about changing individuals into a team. That does not come easily, but is a well calculated process that not only transforms "I" into "WE", while providing direction for every day, week, month, quarter and year. When you arrive at military boot camp, you get your fatigues. Your name, which will appear above your right pocket, is peculiarly missing. How is that so? Could they truly be printing them and just did not have them ready. No way. This is a calculated training effort. You see in those fatigues with no name, the military is telling recruits "you ALL are the same." Just a green pickle in the jar. You are building "We, Team, Us." A subtle, but transformational message is being delivered that we function as a team, together, as one. Then in a few weeks your name tags are ready and you all become a canned pickle. Very much a team, made up of individuals with specific skill sets that complement the team and mission.
Cadence is the lock and step of the team. This is how we all march to the same drum. In business, we sometimes call these metrics. What are the metrics which we measure? How do we compare to other customer service teams? If we’re not measuring, how do we know if we are improving. One of the metrics should be customer satisfaction and wait time are just two of the metrics. You may think that marching is easy, but I can assure you it is not. Remember you are taking individuals and asking them to precisely have their heels hit the ground at the same time, while their hands and arms are in a specific position. If you add in turning left, right or about-face you have exponentially complicated the entire cadence. Our teams need to practice their marching drills every day and using metrics is a great way to mark your cadence.
We need to take those metrics and review them. Let’s celebrate every victory, review every shortcoming, be constant students of our craft. Drill Sergeants don’t always bark out orders, they encourage, drive, set the pace, show by example, motivate and teach. Build the confidence of your team. When reviewing the metric make sure to pull out the areas that need improvement and don’t give them the answer on how to fix them. Have the team come up with the solution. Chances are you do not perform that same task as them, they know their job, let them help with the solution. This breaths confidence into the team and will perpetuate continued growth and best practices.
To be awarded the Marksmanship Medal in any branch of the armed services requires practice and precision. You don’t get the ribbon for missing the target. In customer service, we first must know what the target is and how we can achieve it. To hit the target we need to know what the target is (the metrics) and how we are to achieve or hit it (the weapon). Make sure the metrics we use as our cadence are stretching enough to make us grow and achieve something greater than mediocre service. The target in the military is up range, but the distance can vary. Be marksman at what we do. Practice hitting the target.
We have to know the enemy. So, who is our enemy in customer service? That customer who has not been served by our products or services. The customer who does not like the tone in which we are communicating. The customer who for whatever reason is yelling and not listening, and the list goes on. We need to be combat ready for all of these encounters and only if we practice our skill set to handle objections. We must practice how to defuse an angry customer and say the right things and use empathy to calm the engagement. Combat ready here is not about reacting, but about second nature. We have practiced so much for the worst that our response is second nature.
Graduation day from boot camp in the military is Parade Day. Your entire team is outfitted in their dress uniform and the base commander speaks to the graduates. The commander reflects on all that they have accomplished, how purposeful the training was, how truly ready they are to serve their fellow countrymen and each other. Parade and graduation for a customer engagement team happens every day on every call. When we deliver care and service with empathy and precision we deliver "knock your socks off" customer care and can proudly wear the uniform of Customer Engagement Officer. Salute!
This article originally appeared in the October 2017 issue of HME Business.
Ty Bello is the president and founder of Team@Work LLC, which provides sales coaching, training and professional education to the HME industry. Bello is a Registered Corporate Coach with the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches.