How do you cope with customers’ (and companies’) demands for greater

service, while at the same time your organization is cutting back on staffing? It’s a very real and all too common issue. It’s very frustrating to hear a customer complaining about poor service levels when you know they’re right – and that there’s nothing you can do about it.

The good news is that a growing number of organizations are doing the math, realizing the true cost of defecting customers, and making significant strides to align their service levels with their customers’ expectations. The bad news is that there are still a staggering number of companies – some very large – who lack the vision to see the unarguable link between service levels and profitability. (Chapter 19 will be dedicated to the research on this topic). Will the pendulum continue it’s slow swing back from cost-cutting to customer care? Only time will tell. In the meantime, however, many of us have to learn how to cope with the stress of

simply not being able to provide the service levels our customers expect.

If you find yourself working in an understaffed or under-equipped environment, the first thing you have to do is learn to manage your expectations. Yes, you want to provide superior service, and yes, you want to meet your customers expectations. But if neither of those are realistically achievable under your current circumstances, you’ll just find yourself losing sleep over things that are out of your control. It’s a good idea, then, to approach things with the attitude of “The best I can do is the best I can do.”

Set personal goals for yourself that are achievable. Make sure that you achieve wins every day. Maybe your goal is to have the fewest escalated situations of your team for the day. Maybe it is to have at least one customer tell you you’re wonderful today. Maybe your win is to help your coworkers into positive frames of mind for the day.

The second thing you have to do is effectively manage your customers’ expectations. Don’t tell them you’ll get right back to them, if you know you can’t. Don’t promise things your company can’t deliver. In the most positive way you can, give your customers a realistic idea of what to expect. They may not be happy with how your company performs – but at least it won’t be you who let them down.

If you can’t control the big picture, take control over the ‘smaller’ picture. Make it the best you can and celebrate your wins. Then keep your fingers crossed that your organization will soon begin to see the value in a customer focus.

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