Is your customer service brilliant or really disgusting?
Providing superlative service should be a top priority of any young organization, yet few give it the attention that it deserves, and those that do generally don’t deliver it to their new-found customers.
In fact in my experience, the majority of businesses hover between providing mediocre service to downright terrible service.
Why do the words (of wanting to exceed the customer’s expectations with dazzling service) and music (of actually delivering mind-blowing service) not match?
It’s because providing brilliant service is not a single act, but rather a number of actions taking place simultaneously.
It’s a holistic approach to the customer that satisfies a broad range of their requirements as opposed to addressing a narrow slice of their wants and desires.
Disgusting service typically looks like this:
— Rules, policies and procedures are created to serve the organization's purposes. They are put in place as control mechanisms. They have the intended impact of keeping the customer at a distance. An arms-length relationship with the customer is the result.
— Frontline responsibilities center around enforcing the customer engagement rules of the organization. Frontline people are not empowered to bend the rules in favour of the customer when it makes sense.— The leadership philosophy is command and control where activities are predetermined and degrees of freedom are limited.
— There is little or no flexibility for people to deviate from established procedures. Those who do so are punished in some way or another.
— Short term results are stressed. There is little time to build sustaining relationships with customers as sales are pressed to deliver product sales annually.
— Quality of service is determined using metrics that are generated by internal systems; the customer is rarely engaged in the process.
— Efficiency is the focus in customer contact operations. Call Centers are measured on the length of time they are on the phone with a customer and on the number of calls processed. Furthermore, call centers are outsourced based on economics. Service levels are contained by the need to reduce costs to the lowest possible level.
— Special deals and promotions are offered indiscriminately to non-customers to entice them away from their current supplier, while existing loyal customers don’t qualify for the same deals.— Customers are viewed as transactions where the only thing that is important is the money exchanged.
— Customers don't have personal identity; customized solutions to meet the specific needs of an individual are non-existent. Mass markets and a one-size-fits-all mentality drives the marketing and service activity.
— Telemarketing is used extensively and products are flogged to people without regard for the interruptions and inconvenience caused them.
Brilliant service, on the other hand, looks like this:
— The organization has a culture of caring for it's people and this transcends to how customers are dealt with.
— Leadership believes that their primary role is to serve their employees; to make it easy for them to do their job. They believe that if the frontline is served well from within the customer will be served in the same manner.
— Internal rules, policies and procedures are created in the image of creating memorable service experiences for the customer. Good business practices are of course applied but the organization is flexible enough to restrict the mandatory controls to the necessary minimum.
— Frontline employees are empowered to bend the rules in order to say yes to a customer. The service strategy in play is to find a way to do what the customer wants and not enforce rigid rules.— Service heroes are recognized constantly, reinforcing the importance of the serving ethic.
— Humanity is built in to service operations. Leadership understands that mind-blowing service is delivered by people not machines. Hi-Touch rallies over Hi-Tech.
— Call centers are in sourced and are considered a core competency of providing dazzling service.
— The quality of the customer contact is considered the primary objective. Each moment of truth is engineered to produce an emotion-rich experience for the customer.
— Quality of service measurement is based on the customer's perception of how they were served. Internal operational statistics are used only to diagnose a customer perceived problem.
— The organization gives gifts to their loyal customers as a "thank you!” for their continued patronage.
— The recruitment process is geared to finding people who “love humans”. The belief is that they can learn the business but are borne with the gift of serving.— The organization heavily invests in service believing in long term results rather than emphasis on the short term.
— Social media tools are extensively used to connect with and learn from their tribe.
— The organization is open to feedback and criticism; they use it to improve how they serve customers.
Amazing service occurs when everything that is relevant to the customer is provided seamlessly and consistently.
And it is expressive of a leadership culture that looks outside to what customers want as opposed to managing internal efficiency.
The bottom line for CEO’s of young organizations: be led by your customers, not by what “common wisdom” suggests is the right thing.