Customer Service in a Troubled Economy

In a tough economy, many businesses are forced to cut customer service staff as a way
of managing expenses. Oftentimes, the criteria for these staff cuts amounts to “Last In,
First Out;” that is, the most recent hires are the first ones to be let go. On the surface,
that may seem like a people-oriented policy, aimed at showing loyalty to longer-term
employees. But from your customer’s perspective, does an arbitrary decision like that
always make good business sense? In this economy, you need to keep your most
capable and enthusiastic personnel, regardless of the length of their tenure.

When staff is cut, you still have the same amount of work, but fewer people to do
it. This puts more of a burden on the remaining staff, so you want to make sure the
remaining staff is the cream of the crop, people who can, and will, wear several
different organizational hats.

The team you want is one that is totally focused on customers, external and
internal. These people know that there are duties beyond the job description that often
separate the good businesses from the great ones. These are not just attributes for your
Customer Service representatives or your sales force, but for your engineers and
financial people, administrative staff and senior executives. Businesses can do more
with limited staff, if that entire staff is totally committed to bringing the customer a
positive experience.

Make it clear that, in addition to competency in the requisite skills for each job, you
want to see identifiable action pertaining to, or supporting, a positive customer
experience. This is not measured so much by number of tasks completed, but by
number of customers and fellow employees assisted. Your goal is to assemble a team of
people who want to help. These will be the people you keep when layoffs occur.

Keep in mind that these employees may not always be the most qualified or most
experienced or most talented. They will, however, be the most passionate about
what they do. Each person that you employ that is passionate about his/her work, and
his/her company, is worth their weight in gold in your business. Their every action is
positive PR for your company!

In this economy, staff reduction decisions should be based on their impact on the
customer. Too often, these decisions are made based on investors, and not
customers. But remember, it is the customers who influence the investors, not the other
way around. How valuable and identifiable are your team’s contributions to providing
a positive customer experience? They all should be either serving the customer, or
serving someone who is.

— Charles Dennis
© Knowledgence Associates, 2002 / All Rights Reserved

Download PDF of this Article