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Customer relations is synonymous with customer service. Customer service deals directly with the customer by answering questions, entering order requests and resolving complaints. Often, the hierarchy within customer relations is the customer relations representative, customer relations manager and customer relations director. The director is responsible for ensuring the customer relations organization is interacting with the customer effectively and courteously.
Customer Relations Expert
Being the director of customer relations means being the subject matter expert on customer service. The director should be able to answer questions from employees on the proper way to handle customers over the phone, face-to-face and over the Internet. He should be aware of developments in customer service that affect the organization. This means attending conferences and also participating in panels that address customer service developments. He is up to date on customer service developments and initiatives in the industry.
The director of customer relations is someone who can translate customer service strategy into action. Because she is most knowledgeable about customer service philosophy, she should be able to create a strategic plan for improving customer service and advise her team of the actions needed to achieve the strategic plan. She is a champion of providing quality customer service and should work with customer relations and other departments to execute the strategy. As a side note, she must also ensure that the strategy and action plans do not negatively impact the departmental budget.
Leading by Example
The customer service director sets the example for providing excellent customer service. He should be the real-life example of how to provide quality customer service. Even in situations when the customer is incorrect or difficult, other employees should be able to use his behavior as a guideline. This is not to say that the director is perfect; he is allowed to have "bad days"; however, he must remember he is setting the customer service standard.
The customer service director empowers her employees to service the customer. Employee empowerment can be in the form of additional training and development classes and one-on-one performance reviews. Training and development classes can be internal or external to enhance employee skill sets and enable employees to learn new skills. Employees are also empowered when they know how they can improve through performance review discussions with managers.
The customer relations director is the company's ambassador. He is a representative of the company and is responsible for presenting the company positively to current and potential customers. Each interaction with the customer is his responsibility. If a customer complains about the service, the director is responsible for ensuring that the subsequent interactions with that customer meet or exceed expectations. Each customer interaction is an opportunity to improve the customers' perception of the company.