3 Keys to Good Customer Service

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3 Keys to Good Customer Service

Good customer service is the heart of every business. It flows from employees who engage internal and external customers, meet their needs, and exceed their expectations. Good customer service creates a "wow" experience for your customers, leaves a positive impression, encourages repeat business, and ideally refers other customers to your organization. So how do you get your employees on-board? Here are 3 critical elements of good customer service.

1. Good customer service starts with the right attitude and mindset.

Customer service starts with having the right underlying attitudes and motivations. This means not only hiring people with the right customer service mentality and who want to help and satisfy their customers, but also encouraging the right focus and attitudes by talking positively about customers in the organization, repeatedly communicating the importance of customer service to your business' success, training employees on the customer service practices your organization has decided to emphasize, and recognizing employees who serve the customer extraordinarily well.

Key employee attitudes that drive good customer service include viewing customers positively, understanding that customer service is important to the organization's success, feeling motivated and accountable for providing good customer service, having the information and tools needed to provide good customer service, viewing leaders as enthusiastic and supportive of good customer service, and believing that they can take initiative to do what is best for the customer.

2. Good customer service requires effective communication.

Exceptional customer service requires mastering communication with internal customers (other employees) and external customers (those outside of your organization) as well as with difficult customers. Without both quality communication through a variety of channels such as face-to-face, over the phone, or via email, as well as effective communication in a diverse range of situations both internal, within the organization, and external, outside the organization with a diverse group of customers, service can suffer.

Customer service issues almost always arise from a failure to communicate properly.

For example, customers may not know what to expect or may not be accurately informed of changes and schedules. Customers also could perceive a lack of responsiveness or courtesy. A customer's tone may unleash an emotional reaction from your representative. The underlying problem in all of these issues (and most customer service dilemmas) is a failure to communicate well.

Effective communication with customers involves listening and understanding your customer's viewpoint or problem, handling emotions, organizing and preparing one's thoughts, speaking clearly and succinctly, responding to or following up on questions directly and in a timely manner, watching non-verbal cues like tone and body language, problem solving, and closing conversations or interactions to keep the door open for an ongoing positive relationship with the customer.

Communication is as much an art as a science and takes practice. Building self-awareness of communication strengths and weaknesses and teaching skills through training, role-playing, scripts, and conversation coaching are just a few methods to use to drive better customer service. But beware: not all customer service training and skill-building is created equal. Traditional lectures or "guides" simply won't cut it. Employees must practice, engage in the changed behaviors, and obtain feedback as they are doing so by a trained professional.

3. Good customer service is practiced on your internal customers.

Practice good service with your internal customers. Employees generally don't provide good customer service to their customers if they aren't serving one another in a consistent, reliable, friendly, and timely manner.

Good customer service is the result of positive, supportive interactions between staff members who are interdependent on one another for information, especially when multiple people and departments are involved in the process of delivering a product or service to the customer.

Organizations that provide good internal customer service:

  • Have collaborative cultures that recognize and reward teamwork
  • Freely and efficiently share information with one another; create processes that enable free-flow of information
  • Respect each others' time; respond and resolve internal inquiries in a timely manner
  • Listen and try to understand the concerns and demands of one another
  • Have clear communication channels for communicating product and business process information
  • Speak to one another courteously and respectfully

If you expect and want good customer service from your employees, the best way to achieve it is by modeling the attitudes, behaviors, and communication practices you seek inside your organization and creating a workplace that lives, breathes, and teaches what it means to put the customer first.

Customer Service Skills Training

Customer Service Skills Training

This training helps you build better relationships with your customers.

Train Your Employees

Drug Testing Policies in the Workplace

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Drug testing has become a hot button political issue with the 2012 report by the  National Conference of State Legislatures that 28 states across the country have either considered or passed legislation establishing drug testing requirements for individuals enrolled in various types of public assistance programs, including unemployment benefits. The constitutionality of many of these laws is currently in question, but what do drug testing policies look like outside of the realm of the State?

While some limited data on drug testing policies and practices in the workplace does exist, ERC’s 2012 Drug Testing Policies and Practices Survey provides data about drug testing policies for 163 organizations right here in Ohio. In addition, the report offers a detailed look into the frequency with which organizations have encountered failed drug tests, many of which result in rescinded job offers to otherwise qualified job applicants or even termination for existing employees.

Drug testing policies were common, with 78% of employers reporting that they would not hire an otherwise qualified applicant based on a failed drug test. This policy was applied to hourly positions (78.6%) slightly more often than to salaried positions (77.5%), a trend that continued across all breakouts regardless of industry or organizational size.

Although these hiring polices around drug testing were slightly more common for hourly than salaried positions, the survey found much larger differences in the reported testing failure rates among the hourly (33.5%) than the salaried group (13.2%). By and large, employers reported that their failure rates have remained the same from 2011, both for pre-employment testing as well as for drug tests performed on existing employees.

To download the full survey report of 163 participating Ohio organizations, please click here.

Additional Resources

ERC members save on drug testing with Preferred Partners.

10-Step Guide for Your Company Summer Picnic

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10-Step Guide for Your Company Summer Picnic

The annual company summer picnic or outing is a tradition for many organizations and a time to get creative to give your staff and their families a memorable experience. We’ve compiled a 10-step guide to creating a fun and unforgettable summer picnic for your employees which includes suggestions for possible local venues, entertainment, activities, food, and tips for managing the logistics.

1. Determine who to invite.

Choosing who to invite impacts many of your other decisions about the event. Will you invite just staff, their spouses/significant others, or their families? You'll need to know how many people you need to accommodate and your prospective audience in order to plan a successful picnic.

2. Choose a time.

When choosing a time for your organization's picnic, consider your organization's work schedule, employees' vacation schedules, and who you are inviting to the picnic. If the picnic involves other family members and children, after work or on a weekend may be best; whereas if you are only inviting staff, a weekday picnic may be more appropriate. Saturday around lunchtime and early-mid afternoon is usually the most common day/time to host a family picnic.

3. Pick an attractive local venue.

Selecting a new location for your summer picnic each year adds some excitement. Depending on your budget, local park pavilions, amusement or water parks, dinner cruises, outdoor festivals, or even the company premises (if conducive) are all good options for company summer picnic venues.

4. Plan fun, appealing activities that suit your audience.

Rides, inflatables, carnival games, sports, craft-making, paddle boats, pony rides, and karaoke are just a few of many activities that you could offer. Whatever activities you choose, make sure they fit your audience and the ages in attendance. Also, if your picnic involves activities, it's best to provide an agenda for the day.

5. Hire an entertainer.

Caricature artists, clowns, balloon artists, event artists, trapeze artists, gymnasts, stunt men, magicians, DJs, acrobats, face painters, jugglers, ventriloquists, comedians, fortune tellers, puppeteers, bands, soloists, dancers, and impersonators are different types of entertainers you could hire for the event.

6. Add new prizes to your raffle.

A raffle or drawing is often an anticipated highlight of the company picnic for employees and their families – especially if you give away great prizes. Skip giving away the extra PTO day this year or company logo gear. Rather, include employees’ kids and offer exciting prizes like new technology, money, gift cards and certificates, and the latest toys – all things most people love to win.

7. Theme your event.

It helps change the atmosphere and adds a fun twist. Insert your theme into your activities, food, decorations (tablecloths, center-pieces, etc.), and even communications about the event (invitations, reminders, response cards, etc.). Possible themes could include a beach party, safari, wild-west, casino, circus, Olympics, luau, field day, etc.

8. Brand your event and make it special.

Communications about the company picnic should include more than just a company-wide email or inclusion in a newsletter. Send out personal invitations to each employee and their family. Brand the picnic and display posters and communications around the workplace. Consider creating a special website or intranet site for the picnic. This helps generate excitement about it and makes your employees feel special and valued.

9. Change up the menu.

Providing “picnic staples” (hot dogs, hamburgers, salads, etc.) is important, but consider trying something different this year (see “Picnic Menu FAQs”). Trying new food options can liven up a traditional summer picnic. Additionally, while choosing a good corporate caterer is important, when management gets involved in preparing the food, this can be quite meaningful to employees.

Picnic Menu

Picnic Menu FAQs

  1. What are some popular choices this summer that companies seem to be ordering?
    Items that can be grilled on site, such as marinated chicken accompanied by some unusual side dishes such as a grilled sweet potato salad or a quinoa salad.
  2. What’s good guidance on amount of food and beverage per person?
    If grilling and offering a choice of entrees, make sure to have at least 1 to 2 pieces per person (i.e. one piece of chicken and one hot dog). By offering beverages in dispensers you are sure to have a nice variety and plenty to go around. If it is hot you want to make sure your guests stay hydrated with plenty of cold water (try infusing it with basil and cucumber for something a bit different), iced tea or lemonade.
  3. Best advice you would give a corporate summer picnic planner?
    Make sure that you are setup to keep your cold food cold and your hot food hot on your buffet line. Depending on the size of your event the logistics can overwhelming consider having either a portion or the entire event catered so you can take care of the entertainment details. Give us a call we would love to be part of your corporate celebrations this year no matter how big or how small.

Answers courtesy of Bonnie Matthew, Owner/President of ERC’s Preferred Partner Food for Thought

10. Don’t forget the classics.

Popcorn and cotton candy machines, ice cream and snow cone stands, or the annual company baseball game – the classics and traditions of company picnics – should also be included. Don’t get rid of the traditions and classic elements of a company picnic that your guests love and that are unique to your company culture.

Last but not least – don’t fail to consider the logistics – like contingency plans for rainy weather. These aren’t necessarily the most fun to plan for, but are important for a successful event.

The company summer picnic should make your guests have a great time, connect with one another, meet each other’s families, build relationships and camaraderie, and take pride in your organization. Using the tips in this guide, make your company summer picnic one that employees remember and look forward to all year.

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To Text or Not to Text - There is No Question

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By Pat Perry

In 2012 the Ohio Senate passed House Bill 99 (vote of 25-8) which would make it a secondary offense (for adults) and a primary offense for minors to text while driving. In addition House Bill 99 would prohibit drivers under 18 from using any electronic device while driving (with the exception of a GPS). Regardless of your political persuasion or your thoughts about the Bill, I hope you can agree that if you are texting while driving versus looking at the road, you increase the probability that bad things can happen. In addition to texting while driving, here are a couple of other offenses that seem to only be getting worse:

  • Texting while interviewing (yes, believe it or not…this is happening with some of our member companies).
  • Texting while attending seminars or business events. Instructors and keynote presenters tell us that they are seeing more and more of this behavior.
  • Texting while in a meeting. Equally as rude as texting at a seminar – but apparently much more challenging as the individual texting has a harder time hiding their mobile device while seemingly paying attention to the meeting.
  • Texting while engaged in a one-on-one conversation. I have seen this happen several times and consider it the crème de la crème of texting addiction.
  • Texting Receptionists. The “best” is when a Receptionist greets you and then asks you to hold on for a minute so they can finish their text “conversation”.

The text addiction does not discriminate based on age…seems like everyone is in the game. Next time you are at a stoplight, count the number of cars where the drivers are either texting or not using hands free technology to talk on the phone. Scary stuff.

If you text or call while driving, do us all a favor - please turn the phone off until you get to your destination. If you are one of those that believes that you can text/call without incident while driving, just check out the local, regional or national stats relative to accidents/deaths related caused by texting/cell phone usage – it’s sobering. 

It’s one thing to be rude texting in a business environment…it’s another to kill or hurt someone because of it.

Do’s and Don’ts of Employment Background Checks

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The "Do's"

DO: Obtain Applicant Consent. The first step in pre employment screening is to obtain applicant consent. This isn’t just good advice—it’s also the law, as outlined by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). You must make applicants aware that they will be subject to a background check, and the candidate/employee must sign a written consent form before you conduct the screen.

DO: Make Sure the Background Check Relates to the Job. Establish a clear link between the items you’re screening for in the background check and the job duties. Understand what you “need to know” and what could potentially violate an individual’s privacy rights or cause unfair discrimination.

DO: Apply Your Criteria Consistently. Another way to help keep your company within legal grounds and promote fair hiring is to make sure you apply your policy in a consistent manner. For example, for a particular job category such as “Help Desk Support”  make sure you use the same type of background check on everyone in that job category and that you use the same criteria for assessing the results. You can vary your background checks to make sure they are relevant for the job – but do not vary them within the same job.

DO: Notify Your Applicant of Any Records Found. Before you take any action on the results of a background screen in hiring, promoting, or suspending an employee, make sure you’re aware of the Adverse Action requirements. These requirements are mandated by the FCRA and are very specific about how to notify an applicant of an adverse decision you’ve made concerning the results of their background check.

DO: Consider the Use of Employee Monitoring After Hire: Just because an applicant has cleared a background check, don’t assume that you will know if and when that person might get into trouble once they are in your employ. Monitoring your current employees to make sure you know if an arrest occurs is a growing best practice.

DO: Establish and Publish Your Background Screening Policy. Make clear—in writing—your background screening policy. Detail what types of screens you conduct, and the information for which you’re screening. Make sure you include federal, state and local laws in your guidelines. Additionally, make it clear how you’ll apply your background screening results.

The "Don'ts"

DON’T: Create a Blanket Policy. Fair employment laws require that you only make hiring decisions based on job-related capabilities. Therefore, avoid bright line “no criminal record” policies. Often, old and non-serious convictions have little or no bearing on a person’s ability to fulfill the job obligations.

DON’T: Rely Solely on National Criminal Database Searches. With today’s mobile workforce, it’s wise to conduct criminal searches on a national level to see if there are any criminal activities beyond where your applicant works or worked. But, always back up your national search with a local-level search to verify the results. Otherwise, you’ll risk making decisions on old or potentially inaccurate information.

DON’T: Forget to Screen Your Subcontractors & Temporary Workers. Everyone who works for your company should undergo a background screen. This includes contractors and vendors who are working for you. There is a large body of legal precedent that suggests you can be held liable for anyone who is paid by you; whether they are an employee or a subcontractor.

Percentage of Companies that do Background Checks

Eighty percent of U.S. companies ran criminal checks on job applicants in 2011, compared to about 50 percent of companies in 1996, according to a 2012 report from the Society for Human Resource Management.

What the New EEOC Guidance Means for You

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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) 2012 guidance on background checks suggests that employers need to exercise more due diligence in their hiring practices. Its guidance on background check practices underscores the importance of five key practices in the hiring process.

1. Hiring policies should not exclude people from employment based on status.

Policies that automatically exclude people from employment based on only certain criteria (such as criminal status, age, disability, etc.) could pose liability. Employers should refrain from developing narrow policies of this nature to avoid potential legal issues.

2. Employers need to monitor adverse impact.

Hiring practices that result in adverse impact for a protected group are unlawful. If a hiring practice or selection method is adversely impacting a protected group, employers should not use it. This is true of any method used to base a hiring decision such as ability/personality assessments, drug tests, background checks, credit checks, etc.

3. Employers must hire based on the essential functions of the job.

The EEOC’s guidance suggests that employers must make hiring decisions based on whether candidates can do the essential job functions. Employers must identify those essential requirements in the hiring process and determine if a criminal record (for example) prevents a candidate from performing those functions.

4. Hiring criteria has to be job-related.

One of the most consistent trends in guidance provided by the government (and EEOC) on hiring practices is to keep all hiring decisions based on job-related criteria. If the criteria that employers are using to evaluate job candidates are not job-related, it will likely not hold up in court. For example, if an applicant's criminal offense is unrelated to the job, then you may not be able to exclude an applicant.

5. Employers must train decision-makers about employment discrimination.

The EEOC’s guidance emphasizes the importance of employers training both HR practitioners and managers on employment discrimination. Any individual who makes hiring decisions should understand employment law as it relates to recruitment and hiring.

While the EEOC only specifically addressed criminal background checks in its guidance, employers should be cautious with using any hiring practices, criteria and/or policies that are questionable against the guidelines provided.

Please note that by providing you with research information that may be contained in this article, ERC is not providing a qualified legal opinion. As such, research information that ERC provides to its members should not be relied upon or considered a substitute for legal advice. The information that we provide is for general employer use and not necessarily for individual application.

Additional Resources

Save on Background Check Services!ERC’s Preferred Partner Corporate Screening Services, Inc. offers ERC members discounts averaging over 20% off standard background screening products. 

Behavioral Interviewing
This workshop gives participants the skills they need to effectively plan for and conduct an effective behavioral-based interview. It also guides participants through effectively evaluating candidates so they can hire the best candidate. Emphasis will be placed on the selection process, including legal issues facing interviewers.

An Important Enrollment

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By Pat Perry

Next week, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation is providing a one month open enrollment for employers relative to selecting a Managed Care Organization (MCO). MCOs are a key player for many organizations in keeping their workers’ comp costs in control through proactive case management and a solid transitional work program. Employers pleased with their MCO do not need to take any action. Employers seeking a new MCO can do so at no cost and it only takes about 5 minutes.

There is plenty of information about MCOs at the Bureau’s web site and more data about Ohio MCOs will become abundant starting next week. If you do not know your company’s MCO, you can simply click here to find the MCO assigned to your organization.

Over the next several weeks, ERC will be providing information about the MCO selection process and other critical data to provide organizations facts upon which to make an informed decision. As this open enrollment only occurs every two years, this decision is extremely important.

Since the MCO Open Enrollment period starts April 30 and ends May 25, we will continue to provide you with information throughout to assist you in your choice of a MCO.

14 Tips to Drive Revenue in HR

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14 Tips to Drive Revenue in HR

HR may not always be able to directly contribute to the bottom line, but there are a number of impactful ways that it can help drive revenue. Here is a list of 14 things your HR department can do to drive revenue at your organization.

  1. Win over talent from your competitors. Win over the best talent with better compensation, benefits, opportunities, and a more attractive workplace.
  2. Retain your top producers. Figure out what will make top performers stay and create a strategy to keep them at your organization.
  3. Pay for performance. Create an incentive program directly tied to profitability. Whether that's a bonus program or profit sharing program, it should produce performance gains.
  4. Be selective. Be choosy with your benefits offerings. Select benefits that matter most to your top talent. You may administer 20 different benefits when just 5 are used and valued.
  5. Incorporate drivers of revenue into performance management. Understand the drivers of revenue in your organization and make sure those are measured in the performance evaluation process.
  6. Train smarter. Conduct a training needs assessment to prioritize and identify critical training needs across the organization. Use high quality training methods that lead to behavior change.
  7. Track ROI. Link wellness to health insurance usage; training to performance improvement; engagement to profitability gains. Showing ROI helps build a business case for HR and reinforces its value.
  8. Improve medical and leave management. Administering employee leave more efficiently and choosing an effective Managed Care Organization (MCO) are ways that you can help employees get back to work in less time and reduce the drain of medical leave and workers compensation costs.
  9. Measure what matters. Measure HR cost factors (i.e. compensation cost, benefits cost) and revenue per employee. Know what your top HR costs are and how those compare to other organizations.
  10. Implement time-saving systems. Digitize HR data and record retention. Make it easy for employees and managers to access and use the information you collect so that they can focus on producing results.
  11. Identify obstacles to revenue generation. Lead performance improvement efforts, suggestion and feedback programs, and other means to help identify opportunities to increase revenue.
  12. Plan your workforce. Understand your organization's areas of growth and ensure that you are stacking those areas with top talent. Workplace planning prioritizes hiring needs.
  13. Reduce legal fees. By choosing inexpensive legal resources and assistance, obtaining legal knowledge, and keeping your organization compliant, you can significantly reduce legal fees.
  14. Save on staffing. Hiring is arguably one of your most expensive HR areas. Reduce your cost per hire by taking advantage of staffing service discounts and using creative, inexpensive sourcing methods.

HR departments that drive revenue and results in their organizations take advantage of opportunities to save their organizations money wherever possible, identify opportunities to build up their top revenue producers, and simply manage HR smarter and more efficiently.

HR Project Support: Job Descriptions and Onsite HR Audit

Bandwidth Battles: Streaming Content Takes a Hit

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As the mid-afternoon lull sets in, you decide to check in with a few folks. When you poke your head in and say hello, you get no response. With their headphones in and Pandora buried beneath a cascade of windows on their desktop, you can see that this employee is clearly focused on the task at hand. You move on to the next cube over- headphones again. Oh well, you can stop by again tomorrow, besides there’s a new Pandora station you’ve been meaning to try.

But what if Pandora wasn’t an option anymore? What about YouTube, ESPN.com, or any other site containing streaming audio or video? Employees all across the country are finding out as more and more employers are unable to keep up these bandwidth hogs.

CNN cited Proctor & Gamble as yet another prominent example of an organization forced to make the decision to block certain sites with streaming content. For P&G employees, Pandora and Netflix are now a thing of the past, but interestingly, both YouTube and Facebook remain accessible.

Their decision to block some but not all streaming content sites reflects yet another challenge that organizations are facing related to streaming content. Even as they ban some sites, organizations must balance their need to preserve network bandwidth, while still retaining access to sites that employees utilize for job related activities, such as marketing or professional networking.

So where does your workplace fall on this continuum from total restriction to total access of streaming content? Has the ongoing struggle for sufficient bandwidth forced your organization to block streaming content? Is bandwidth capacity the issue or is the ban more closely related to questions about employee productivity or other factors?

For more news like this, sign up to receive our weekly newsletters here.

What is the Difference Between an MCO and a TPA?

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If you are responsible for your workers’ compensation program, it is important to have a fundamental understanding of the roles of a MCO and a Workers’ Compensation Third Party Administrator (TPA). MCOs and TPAs play unique roles in helping employers control workers’ compensation costs.

What is a MCO?

Under Ohio's Health Partnership Program, MCOs are responsible for the medical management of Ohio employers’ work-related injuries and illnesses. Every employer in Ohio must have a MCO, which is paid for directly by the Bureau of Worker's Compensation.

The core MCO functions include:

  • Collecting initial injury reports and transmitting to BWC;
  • Management and authorization of medical treatment to be received by an injured worker;
  • Medical review and bill payment processing;
  • Maintaining a network of BWC-certified healthcare providers;
  • Return to work services;
  • Utilization review;
  • Providing Peer Reviews as necessary for treatment decisions;
  • Processing treatment appeals through the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process; and
  • Training and education.

Further, MCO associates are medical professionals and their processes are clinically focused. They work diligently to help employers avoid the most costly of claims, i.e. lost time claims – when an injured worker is off work for eight or more consecutive days. With clinicians managing the medical care and transitioning injured workers back to gainful employment, employers are better able to manage their long term insurance premiums.

What is a TPA?

A Third Party Administrator (TPA) assists employers in the administrative and financial aspects of a claim.

The core TPA responsibilities include:

  • Providing risk management consulting to employers;
  • Administering compensation group rating savings programs and other discount program consulting;
  • Pertinent claims investigation;
  • Claims administration;
  • Industrial Commission hearing attendance;
  • Evaluation of claims for workers' compensation coverage; and
  • Assisting employers in the development of workers' compensation cost control strategies.

 

TPA staff typically consists of claim representatives, account representatives, and other workers' compensation professionals. 

ERC is proud to endorse CareWorks as the preferred workers’ compensation Managed Care Organization (MCO) for members. For more information, click here.