Your Role in Customer Service
May 1, 2011 1:00 AM, By Chriss Scherer, editor
The phrase "customer service" typically invokes an image of someone manning a counter position at a retail store or an individual with a telephone headset at a call center. This is the consumer view of customer service representatives, but the customer service phrase itself is not limited to addressing dissatisfied consumers. Regardless of your job position, you work in some form of customer service.
It may not seem obvious, but everyone serves a customer. For a contract engineer, the customer is mostly obvious. The station paying the contractor's fee is the customer. But even the contract engineer has less obvious customers.
Are you an on-staff station engineer? You may think you have no customers. You report to your supervisor and rarely have contact with listeners. This may be true, but your customers are all around you.
The people we report to are our customers, but so are the people we work with. And customer service isn't just addressing problems and concerns; it's ensuring the service you provide is satisfactory.
This was all brought to mind recently by a situation in which a company's website was being transferred from one server to another. The transfer wasn't simply relocating data, it involved installing and configuring an entire content management system as well. As I observed the process I realized the same experience could be applied to changing a station's automation system, building a new studio facility and even planning a remote.
In the case of the website transfer, the communication between the site developers and content posters was one-sided. It appeared the site developers did not view the content posters as their customers in any way. The developers provided information to the users, but the communication was completely informational. There was little (if any) understanding on the developers' part to first understand the needs or schedules of the users. The information provided was straight facts and a hard timeline.
We all have time schedules, and when two departments must work together, there has to be some negotiation of time to benefit both sides. Coordinating mutually acceptable schedules is but one step in good customer service. Granted, it's not always possible to perfectly accommodate everyone's schedule, but some common ground can be found.
As this specific project continued, short time schedules were just one of the issues. During the transition, the users were required to essentially do their work twice by posting material in two places (to the live site and the future site). There were other issues, but I think you get the idea that the project was not the smoothest from the users' point of view.
In most cases, communication is the simplest aspect of good customer service. While it's not necessary to share every minute detail of a project with everyone involved, sharing no information at all is a sure way to ensure failure. Find a balance in too much or too little information.
A more difficult aspect of good customer service is understanding the needs and concerns of the other people. We know our own jobs very well. We probably don't know other peoples' jobs that well. But understanding how they do their work can help you do yours.
When I was the chief engineer at a station I would ask to pull an air shift once at least every six months. This allowed me to use the studio and gain a better understanding of its operation. It also let me observe the little nagging issues that others were putting up with because no one bothered to notify engineering.
That small effort improved my customer service skills. What do you do to improve yours?
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