Customer service – your most important deliverable

customer-serviceBoth non-profits and suppliers in the non-profit marketplace must deliver solid customer service. If a charity does not deliver a high level of customer service, the likelihood of the charity retaining their donors is nil. Likewise, if suppliers do not deliver a high level of customer service, the likelihood of retaining the charity customer is the same.

Customer service failures are easily identifiable. Think about a time when you became agitated with a company you were dealing as a consumer. Was it an airline, an online store, a retailer, a hotel, or a restaurant? What got your blood pressure up? How could this have been prevented?

You and I do not put up with poor customer service as consumers. If we receive poor customer service, we likely complain directly to the supplier via letter, email, phone, or, even, Twitter and other more public channels. In our sector, why would donors put up with a charity and why would non-profits put up with suppliers who are not on top of their customer service game?

What must each of us do to ensure those things do not occur in our organisation or business?

Good customer service begins at home. Your team – whether in a charity or supplier – need to consider their work colleagues to be their customers. We need to be responsive of one another in meetings, email, and other forums. A positive atmosphere is infectious, as is a poisonous atmosphere.

When customer service is delivered to one another, it spreads to our external customers – donors or charities.

Turnaround time. We should expect to hear back from one another within a business day when there is not a holiday or sick leave situation. When a day’s turnaround time is not possible, set expectations with the “customer”. Be clear about length of time and, perhaps, reasons why it may take you a bit longer. Keep the consumer informed about your progress.

Gift entry/acknowledgement. Charities should be responsive to donors when a contribution is received. How does your organisation measure up? You don’t know? You should. Processing a gift and returning a receipt/acknowledgement within 48 hours is critical. I have said it before. You and I cannot control the amount of time it takes Australia Post to get the donation to the charity. Likewise, we cannot control the amount of time it takes Post to get the thank you letter to the donor. Therefore, we must control the length of time the gift is in our custody.

Processing time must be measured, goals set, and KPIs monitored.

Friendly, upbeat greetings. Whoever is on the telephone or greets visitors to your organisation needs to be friendly and upbeat at all times and no matter the distractions. Remember the old saying that you do not get a second chance to make a first impression? Use that rule at the reception desk.

Do Not. As a member of a team, you cannot blame others for not being able to respond in a reasonable time frame. Additionally, do not tell people you are “flat out” and cannot complete their task. Doing so makes it seem like you believe they, too, are not busy. We are all busy. And, doing so also diminishes the importance of their task!

Absence won’t make the heart grow fonder. Be sure to have constant coverage and even during holiday and sick periods. Do not assume your donors or customers will understand and will simply wait for their key contact to return. Set out of office messages on the phone and email systems.

The hard stuff. Having difficulty accomplishing the hard stuff should not prevent us from delivering good customer service and it should not prevent us from accomplishing the day-to-day, more routine, items. If a donor or a customer, in the case of a suppler, asks something that cannot quickly be answered or, perhaps will require a bit of research, set clear expectations about the timeline it might take to get an answer.

Under promise and over deliver.

Good customer service levels do not have to be difficult to achieve. Start at home; repeat it to your external audiences; set metrics for turnaround time; ensure friendly and upbeat atmosphere at the point of reception; do not blame others and do not use the “flat out” excuse; fill gaps in staffing during holiday and sick periods; and don’t let the hard stuff get in the way of the more routine items.

Make this the year of customer service. Following these simple tasks will let you, as a non-profit or a supplier in our space, shine throughout the year.