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Customer Service: Are You Paying Your Reps What They Deserve?

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THE PROBLEM: Most companies still do not provide good quality customer service.

THE SOLUTION: Start by re-evaluating whether your customer service reps receive the pay, training, and respect they deserve.

Recently, my team and I were working with the CEO of a major financial services company. This particular meeting was not a happy one; the CEO was reviewing customer satisfaction scores that indicated serious problems.

One of my team members asked the CEO: "How well are you paying your front-line customer service people?"

There was a long silence. It was broken by the CEO's rueful admission that the best-paid members of the critical team interacting directly with the company's customers earned an annual salary of $32 K to $35 K. That CEO had just experienced an "A-HA" moment. Given the tens of millions of dollars these front-line people impact every day, what sense did it make to underpay and hence ... undervalue their role?

Unfortunately, this CEO is no exception. Countless enterprises are handicapped by treating front-line service people as among the lowest paid individuals in the entire organization.

This dangerous practice is incompatible with the realities of today's "empowered consumer" era. How can marketers acknowledge that a single social-media-savvy customer can impact the reputation of a company ... yet perpetuate a system which underpays and undervalues the critical customer service role?

  • Give front-line service people more authority and respect within the organization. For instance, you might give front-line personnel the autonomy to spend up to a certain dollar amount to resolve a consumer problem ... and then offer public praise to employees who spend those corporate dollars effectively.
  • Re-examine your compensation plan. If the pay is not commensurate with what your company says about its belief in good customer service ... then you won't attract top notch people to deliver on that promise!
  • Create an effective "soft skills" training plan. Very often, customer service people know all about the various technical and product/service feature issues ... but have not received thorough and on-going training on people skills and effective customer engagement.
  • Re-evaluate the fundamental skill set of the people you're putting on the customer service phone or face to face front lines and expecting to interact effectively with your customers. If some of those people are simply not cut out for the empathetic, "people-first", task of hearing customers out, making them feel heard, and cheerfully solving their problems, you need to reassign them to other departments or, part company with those employees.

Ernan Roman is President of the marketing consultancy, Ernan Roman Direct Marketing.
Recognized as the industry pioneer who created three transformational methodologies: Integrated Direct Marketing, Opt-In Marketing, and Voice of Customer Relationship Research.

Clients include Microsoft, NBC Universal, Disney, Hewlett-Packard and IBM.

2010-12-08-ernan.jpgErnan was named to "B to B's Who's Who" as one of the "100 most influential people" in Business Marketing by Crain's B to B Magazine.

His fourth and latest book on marketing best practices is titled: Voice of the Customer Marketing: A Proven 5-Step Process to Create Customers Who Care, Spend, and Stay.

Ernan is also the co-author of "Opt-In Marketing: Increase Sales Exponentially with Consensual Marketing" and author of "Integrated Direct Marketing: The Cutting Edge Strategy for Synchronizing Advertising, Direct Mail, Telemarketing and Field Sales."