Whenever I hear the word “triage,” I automatically think of M*A*S*H‘s Hawkeye Pierce hastily surveying a tent full of injured soldiers.  He’d peer under blankets, check vital signs and ask troops: “Where does it hurt?” to make sure that the most critical cases were dealt with first.

Triage is obviously essential in a field hospital.  Without it, people (real people – not actors on a TV show) would die needlessly.  But frankly, it’s just as important to delivering great customer service.  While I’m sure you’d like to be able to simultaneously address every one of your clients’ needs, we both know that’s just not realistic.  Your customer service resources are limited, and you have to tend to the most serious problems first.

Here are a few tips for using triage to improve service in your staffing or recruiting firm:

Identify your most common client issues.  As a group, brainstorm a list of the types of requests and issues your clients typically have.  Think of the big and small things; the garden-variety and unexpected; the simple and catastrophic.

Categorize issues.  While immediacy is often a primary consideration when it comes to staffing, you may also choose to categorize clients’ needs based on resources required (i.e., how simple the problem is to solve) and whether or not direct customer contact is required.  Categorizing needs will help you develop a framework for creating appropriate service action plans.

Develop appropriate response schemes.  Once you’ve categorized client service items, you can develop different routings, strategies or resources to deal with each category.  For example, here are two options many businesses use:

  • Focus all employees on high-priority tasks.  (e.g., when your best client calls in a critical last-minute need, get all hands on deck to fill the opening)
  • Divide work among different subgroups of employees.  (e.g., give complicated work to more experienced employees, or always give similar kinds of work to certain employees, etc.)

Choose response strategies that make the most sense for your business and document action plans for each category of issue.

Train all employees in triage.  Once you’ve documented your triage process, train all employees who have contact with clients (or provide any type of service to clients) on how to identify, prioritize and initiate responses to client issues.  Triage is a formal service process and will only work if you educate and empower your staff to conduct it properly.

Leverage technology.  Admittedly, I’m a huge fan of technology, when it’s used the right way.  While you should always make it easy for clients to talk to a live person, you should also provide convenient self-service options for submitting service requests or for finding information.  Suggestions include creating a robust FAQ for your website or providing an online order form for non-urgent staffing needs.

Just as no two war wounds are the same, no two staffing issues are exactly alike.  Triage can help you consistently provide shareworthy service by systematically prioritizing customers’ needs, and then adjusting the level and expediency of your response.

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