BSBCUE203 – Respond to Customer Enquiries
Adapt to the Requirements and Expectations of Various Customers When Working in an Outsource Environment and Dealing with Multiple Customer Bases
What is Outsourcing?
Outsourcing refers to situations where your company acts as the customer service point for another company, or your company hires a firm to deal with the customer service aspect of your company.
Outsourcing is a service large companies choose to use as it:
- Reduce company costs
• Improve service delivery
• Be reliable
• Be measurable
• Advantageous in that companies which specialise in customer service have the technology and industry experience to accommodate high volume customer service
• Lead to operational efficiencies
• Lead to budget flexibility.
Outsourcing environments can include the following:
- Servicing customers of another enterprise or business unit by agreement.
• Taking contacts for multiple enterprises.
• Taking overflow calls for another enterprise.
When outsourcing is used, it is not just a matter of picking up the phone and dealing with customers. To survive, an outsourcing company must keep in mind that despite being outside of the company that hired their services, they are representing the company that hired them. This is a big responsibility, and it implies that the outsourcing company knows things about the company that has hired them.
Things they should know can include:
- What product or services are being sold by the company
• Features and prices of these products and services
• Policies and procedures for complaints, payments, postage, and so on.
In hiring an external organisation to handle the customer relations of your organisation, the external organisation needs to be aware of what the hiring company’s expectations are. For example, a company may have a goal of achieving 100% customer satisfaction. The outsourcing company needs to be aware of this goal, and they need to work towards keeping two sets of customers satisfied:
- the customers of the company outsourcing the service;
- the company who has hired the outsourcing company to look after their customer services.
Companies that outsource their customer services have a responsibility to provide as much information as possible to the outsourcing company.
Escalate Enquiries or Orders that Cannot Be Satisfied Immediately
The concept of escalation policies and what they mean in the context of customer service was discussed earlier. To reiterate, escalation policies are the measures that need to be taken to resolve a customer complaint or concern that cannot be resolved by the customer representative dealing with the customer. The complaint needs to be sent to people higher in the management hierarchy to fix or to give guidance on how to resolve the given problems.
As the chances of customer concerns being escalated are always there, the policies will require that the escalated issues are resolved quickly, consistently, and reliably. The escalation policy will highlight roles, responsibilities, and the processes that need to be followed to rectify escalated enquiries promptly.
Escalated enquiries can be about technical matters, product matters, employee matters, or various other issues. Whatever the problem, employees must make sure that issues are escalated appropriately. This means that when you do encounter a problem, try your best to resolve the problem on your own. Use your knowledge, skills, experience, and even common sense to overcome the problem before you decide that it needs to be escalated. If escalating a situation is the first thing you do, it will indicate to your supervisor that you are not competent enough to carry out your duties or that you aren’t putting in enough of an effort to resolve the problem yourself.
When an issue is escalated, once you have exhausted all means of resolving it yourself, then all information regarding the issue must be well communicated to the person next in charge. This is where the need and importance of keeping a record of all communications between the client and company is clear. All telephone calls, conversation details, general details, specific details, as well as what action has been taken to date to try and resolve the concern, are all examples of what information needs to be recorded.
The most important factors to remember when escalating an enquiry include:
- Following the correct policies and procedures
• Knowing who is next in charge to resolve the problem if you cannot
• The time-frames that need to be adhered to when dealing with escalation problems
• Being well informed of all information regarding the situation and communicating this information to all involved
• Keep the customer involved informed and up-to-date as you do not want to cause any further dissatisfaction
Supply Follow-Up Information to Customer as Required and in a Timely Manner
To do something in a timely manner simply means to accomplish a task within a reasonable time-frame. Everything you do in your job role needs to be done in a timely manner. If tasks are not done within set time-frames and to a deadline, not much work would be done. This means no productivity.
So no matter what you are working on, remember to set yourself an amount of time to complete that task or if you have been given a deadline by your supervisor, stick to it. How well you do tasks in a timely manner will also depend on what policies and procedures are in place to guide you as to what process you must follow to accomplish tasks in a timely manner.
It is no different when your task is to contact customers either face-to-face, over the telephone, or via email. Where there is the need to come back into contact, it must be done in good time. It is all part of the customer service process that customer’s issues are treated with a sense of urgency, be it a problematic situation or otherwise. Again, companies will have policies and procedures which guide these processes, so employees must be well versed in company procedures.
A good employee will endeavour to recontact customers for any concerns or queries they may have. The follow-up information could be for any reason, and it could cover simple or complex enquiries.
Observe Organisational Regulations and Standards Throughout Transaction
Regulations and Standards
Organisational regulations and standards are what company policies and procedures are made up of. These are the rules that guide employees on how they should conduct themselves, how they should do their work, and who has what responsibility within their work unit or team. There are a lot of regulations and standards to abide by (as will be highlighted further on), but they are essential for the sound running of the organisation. These are the rules of law and order for the company.
Consumer Credit Codes and Legislation
- National Credit Code
This is legislation which is applicable in situations where credit is offered. All non-business credit transactions are governed by this legislation. The Code exists to ensure that consumers are treated fairly and that they are protected from being exploited by companies.
It governs situations such as:
- Where credit is provided for mostly domestic or personal reasons
• Where an extra charge is in place for the credit
• The credit is on offer due to a business providing credit, i.e. the business provides credit.
Some examples of organisations that must abide by the Code include:
• Mortgage brokers
• Finance companies
• Leasing companies
• Credit unions
• Building societies.
- ‘Do Not Call’ Register
Some companies carry out telemarketing activities to find new customers. This entails calling customers they have identified as being within their market segment and then try to sell their products to the customer over the phone. The Australian Government has created a Do Not Call Register, where private telephone and fax numbers can be registered, and businesses can register their fax numbers. Once registered, it protects individuals or businesses from receiving calls or faxes from telemarketing companies.
Once numbers have been registered, telemarketers (both local and international) are no longer allowed to call those registered numbers. This is governed by the Do Not Call Register Act 2006. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is responsible for this Register under the mentioned Act.
- Equal Employment Opportunity and Anti-Discrimination Legislation
Equal employment opportunities (EEO) and anti-discrimination are governed by legislation. That means that there exists specific legislation which protects consumers, employees, and all other people that are associated with an organisation, directly or indirectly. Organisations will integrate these pieces of legislation into their policies and procedures. Failure to do so means the company is breaking the law, and this may also create a negative image of the company.
Equal employment is governed by equal employment opportunity legislation, and each State and Territory has its own body which they adhere to. This is the same with anti-discrimination. The Act pertaining to EEO is the Equal Employment Opportunity (Commonwealth Authorities) Act 1987, and anti-discrimination is governed by the Age Discrimination Act 2004, the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1984.
- Freedom of Information
Freedom of information covers the rights a consumer has to request further information regarding any goods or services they are purchasing from a company. It also highlights the responsibility a company has for covering and detailing all policies and legislation that governs how they run their business and what their terms and conditions are. This information is usually available in a Product Disclosure Statement, where all the terms and conditions are written out for the customer’s viewing.
As a customer representative, you also have an obligation to answer all questions a customer has openly and honestly. Where they have concerns or need clarification regarding business processes and terms and conditions, you must explain them in simple terms which are easy to understand.
- Industry-Specific Codes, Regulations, and Legislation
While there are several codes and regulations which cover all industries, like the anti-discrimination Acts, there are other industry-specific Codes. This means that each industry (e.g. retail, business, hospitality, etc.) has specific regulations and legislation they will need to integrate into the daily running of their organisations.
Here is an example to illustrate this – the Department of Infrastructure and Transport has a few Acts which govern what they do and how they do it. There is the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004 and the Maritime Transport and Offshore Facilities Security Act 2003. Then there is the Aviation Transport Security Regulations 2005 and the Maritime Transport and Offshore Facilities Security Regulations 2003.
These are specific to the infrastructure and transport department and will not apply to, for example, the retail industry. The retail industry has its own set of Acts and Regulations that they will need to abide by.
- Work Health and Safety Legislation
Work health and safety or workplace health and safety legislation centres ensures the best measures that can be implemented within organisations will be implemented to ensure a safe and healthy work environment. Different industries have different levels of depth for their health and safety policies and procedures. The construction industry, for example, has in-depth policies and procedures, whereas an accounting firm would be less in-depth and have a different focus for their policies and procedures. Workplace health and safety is governed by the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.
Whilst working and interacting with customers, always make sure that the area you are working in is clear of hazards or situations which can cause harm. From something simple like keeping aisles clear of goods and packaging, to making sure that if chemicals are being sold that they are all packaged and handled correctly to reduce any risk of accidents happening.
- Privacy Act
Collecting sensitive information and sharing it is commonplace when interacting with customers. This will include personal details, financial institution details, and a variety of other information. A customer has provided these details because they trust your organisation not to share this information with any third parties unless they have given permission to do otherwise. This is why the Privacy Act 1988 exists. It is a form of protection for consumers.
An organisation has a duty of care to their customers, and one of the most essential parts of this is that personal information is not shared or used in a manner outside of what has been agreed on by the customer and the organisation
- Competition and Consumer Act
The Competition and Consumer Act 2010 is the main competition law in Australia and exists to protect consumers and stop any restrictive practices by companies.
The Act covers:
- Misleading or deceptive conduct
• Anti-competitive behaviours
• Cartel behaviour (e.g. price-fixing)
These are all factors an organisation needs to consider when offering goods and services. There are heavy penalties and fines associated with being found guilty of such practices.
Record Details of Engagement According to Policy
The need to accurately record a variety of information from interactions with customers is important, and it is done for a few reasons.
These reasons can include:
- For customer service training reasons (telephone)
• To obtain personal details (telephone and face-to-face)
• To note the enquiries or concerns that customers may have, all relevant details should be recorded
• Postcodes may be obtained so that the organisation can see which areas their customers are coming from
• Personal information is collected to help customer service representatives identify customers when they call next.
Due to the increase in the use of technology within the workplace, there has been a move towards recording information electronically. It is now preferable to record information electronically in a specialised computer program rather than having to write it down and keep track of paperwork.
Record and Report Difficulties Not Escalated But That May Present an Opportunity for Continuous Improvement
As highlighted earlier, escalated concerns should only occur when you, as an employee, have exhausted all means to resolve the problem yourself. Even when you manage to solve a problem without escalating the concern, it is still important that you record exact details of the problem you dealt with. It is great that you managed to resolve the issue without escalating (and it looks good to management); however, it is your duty as an employee to report the nature of the problem, how you resolved it, and the final outcome to your supervisor.
There are many reasons why. Firstly, reporting problems may bring a recurring problem to management’s attention. This can result in policies and procedures being reviewed and adjusted to create better work processes and processes on how to best deal with specific difficulties. Secondly, in reporting difficulties and highlighting the processes you took to resolve the problem, it can act as an opportunity for you to show that you can take the initiative and adapt your skills and knowledge to resolve problems and not bother your supervisor with the problem. Thirdly, it is an opportunity to contribute towards improving service delivery by recommending what procedures or policies may need to be altered to achieve a smoother work process.
Management will appreciate this feedback because it is the customer service representatives who are on the front line when interacting with clients. It is these employees who can begin seeing trends in how efficiently they can rectify difficulties and where there is room for improvement to allow them to carry out their work more effectively. This can increase productivity as more time friendly and work-friendly processes may be adopted.
- Outsourcing customer service functions is a viable option for companies which have a large customer base.
- Only escalate customer concerns when you are unable to resolve the problem without guidance and support.
- There are a variety of regulations and legislation that needs to be followed and integrated when interacting with customers.
- Recording information in a systematic and organised manner is essential and will contribute to the smooth running of the organisation.
- Always look out for and talk to your supervisor about ways of making improvements when dealing with and managing problems.