A senior leader once told me that the memorable staff in his organisation were often the ones that were first considered for promotion or advancement. What he really meant was, if you’re not noticed or if senior leaders don’t at least have an opinion of you then it is a lot harder to make career advancements. The same applies in customer service. Whilst being deliberate is all about intent in the background, the outputs of service must be noticed by customers. Anyone can be memorable, but the challenge is to be memorable in the right way as often we hear and read stories about how customer service leaves bad memories (which often lead to rants on social media)! There are a number of things that senior leaders can do that will result in customers taking away positive memories from their experience with your organisation.
1. Stereotype your industry
Think about your industry from the customer’s point of view and ask yourself what ideas, standards or even clichés exist — and don’t be afraid to be honest. For example, if I said ‘banks’, one might think of queues and fees. When you understand what stereotypes exist within the industry, it is much easier to find a unique point of difference that will set your organisation apart from those that are similar or in competition. It doesn’t have to be part of a marketing strategy, but a really clear and well-known case study of this would be the 2010 ANZ Bank campaign: ‘Barbara lives in bank world’ (which was also subject to some public criticism). When finding your point of difference, make sure you look into what the organisation stands for and what subtle changes can be made. No two businesses can ever be the same, but the danger lies in conforming to an industry norm. Don’t be afraid to rebel!
2. Segment the journey
We often read about the customer journey from a marketing and sales perspective and there are many different interpretations of this journey which can be found online. However, my favourite definition of a customer journey, or better yet, a system of thinking was identified by American chef Patrick O’Connell, the owner of The Inn at Little Washington. He defined it as stages of an experience rather than the journey itself and took the form of the following five stages: ‘anticipation, trepidation, inspection, fulfilment, and evaluation’. When used as a tool for training staff, there will be more awareness, understanding and control in creating positive memories through customer service. Knowing how these five stages apply to your organisation, even based on the stereotypes that might exist, will be beneficial when looking for moments and opportunities to be memorable.
3. Recognise the individual customer
Customers are not very important people. They are very individual people. In your organisation, pinpoint the factors that influence your customers’ needs and then identify the individual and different types of customers that you see in your organisation. Even if you have to stereotype, you can identify what matters to them most, including their emotions. A good example is a mother who goes grocery shopping with her children — she needs to buy food but when you look deeper, she really needs a hassle-free and quick experience with understanding about being price-sensitive and concerned about keeping her children safe. The big question, though, is the mother the customer or are the children the customers? It takes time to get to know your customers, especially if there are cultural differences involved, but take the time to watch and observe, which will make it easier to identify the time and the way to create positive memories.
4. Remove the conflict mindset
Many organisations view conflict management training as the solution for frequent customer complaints. Even organisations who are exceptional at delivering customer service will still receive complaints. So how can you turn around a complaint to leave a customer with a positive memory? The solution is to stop thinking about the complaint as a form of conflict between two parties. By removing the conflict mindset, the organisation should view complaints or even potential complaints as opportunities. Opportunities don’t always present with a warning (no matter how frequently they occur), which is why it is important to be prepared to be proactive or reactive to a customer’s needs and emotions. The solution is to use the opportunity as a chance to recover the customer — that means a chance to show them how important they are to you and the organisation. A conflict mindset will lead to conflict.
5. Empower personal action
Think about a time that someone has surprised you. That spontaneity, which is so unexpected, can often make your day and give you something to look back on forever. Remember, there can be both bad and good surprises, so let’s just look at the good ones for now. For this example, I’d like to use the common issue of replacements and refunds in the retail environment. Often a customer will approach a staff member with a problem, and while the solution is plain and simple, it is often escalated from person to person before getting to the most senior staff member, who will eventually authorise the refund or replacement. Imagine if a refund or replacement could be arranged immediately by the very first person. Not only does this remove red tape and unnecessary processes, it empowers your staff with the trust to make a decision on the spot, which will be so unexpected to customers, leaving them with a positive memory to take away.
Chris Smoje is a customer service speaker, trainer, facilitator and founder of the DIME™ Customer Service approach. Chris works with organisations and their people to develop a common interest and excitement about delivering exceptional customer service results: www.dimecustomerservice.com