Would you know how to describe the level of customer service in your organisation if you were asked? The days of either fitting into three categories — poor, average or good — are now over. With the need to continuously reflect and improve, not to mention the number of ways you can make improvements you need to have an accurate way to describe your service levels. That will give you a good indication of what you need to focus on but also accurately paint a picture of service in your organisation that cannot be altered to make the annual report look better. If you are to be serious about customer service improvement you need to be honest about where you sit. To help organisations do this and to diagnose and set the foundations for the journey to exceptional customer service, I have developed the following 10 ratings.
This is the bottom, and the lowest you can score yourself. The only thing worse than not having customer service, is where your team and your organisation are doing damage to the business. In other words being dysfunctional, causing customers to leave, complain, tell others, lose revenue, and even the possibility of the business closing. If this is happening in your organisation, whatever you are doing is simply not working. This is where a fresh approach is absolutely vital.
This would normally be considered as being at the bottom but luckily it isn’t. Stagnant is the way to describe a business that simply isn’t doing anything at all when it comes to customer service or improving service. Sure, nothing bad is happening, but nothing good is happening either, and there are certainly no efforts to make any change. If something is to change here it should be to bring the organisation together in an alliance of combined action with everybody responsible for doing something. Like a stagnant swap with no life, the only way to create at least some ripples is to throw a rock to make things happen.
So the stagnant swamp now has some movement and ripples. It’s you. But you can’t swim! It is such an effort to stay above the water, no matter how hard you kick to try and remain afloat. It would be so much easier to get out and let the water go stagnant again. But you don’t. Instead you learn how to swim. Why? Because it interests you. If you are at this stage it is all about developing a common interest between the team, focusing on motivation to get them to learn and like swimming so they can stay above the water with minimal effort.
By now some goals are being kicked. But many of the attempts for goals are missing the mark. Most importantly, you can see that it is costing you the game, but you feel that simply with time and practice your skill will improve. Whilst that may be the case, it would be quicker to take a break and realign your focus. Look at everything that you are doing and pinpoint the ways you can make changes to your game plan.
Neither good nor bad. Right in the middle. You may at first feel that this is a good level, as you have fewer customer complaints. Not to mention there are also few customer compliments, which doesn’t give you an indication on what you are doing right. The only way to move up from here is to take small steps. Nothing radical, just try to do something better each day, or make sure that each change in your business and service is more positive than before.
Finally, you have reached the point where you are more on the positive side than the negative side. You as an organisation can tolerate this type of service. But why stop here? This is the time when you can really start to do the things you have always wanted to do. If you were once ‘dysfunctional’ you probably would have wanted to do these things first but they simply wouldn’t have worked. Now is the time to think of some transformational initiatives.
In the past, ‘good’ was a desired standard. When you saw this on your report card at school it was seen as a positive. And yes, you should certainly be proud. On your journey to exceptional customer service, this is the part where momentum really starts to build. From a strike rate perspective, you can start to see that with each new initiative there is a positive result. But don’t forget it is a marathon not a race. People start to get tired so your main focus should be to keep the momentum going.
You are now far ahead. Doing things that many haven’t achieved. In many opinions you could consider this as being perfect and for a split moment it will be. But it won’t be tomorrow. As you reach this level your customers will expect more from you tomorrow. Technology will change, the economy will change. This is the time where you need to demonstrate to your customers that you are a progressive organisation and show them that you are doing things that will take you ahead, even if ahead is in uncharted territories.
Surely by now we have reached the top, right? A true measure for this level is time. You can only be considered as having great customer service if your service levels continue to improve over the sustained and long-term period. Often when an organisation reaches the advanced level, all it takes is a change in leadership, the CEO to retire, a few staff to resign and look for their new challenges for the service levels to start to slip. You are achieving great customer service if you can sustain it in the long-term.
This is truly reserved for the amazing organisations. It is not easy to reach this level. But when you are here, others will start benchmarking their organisation against you. Your business will be recognised for customer service in every single thing that you do. This should be your goal and there is no reason why it cannot be achieved. In fact it will be a lot easier to achieve if you follow the previous nine steps on your journey. The only question here is, what next? Since other organisations will be turning to you, it is up to you to go back to the beginning and think of a truly outstanding ‘fresh approach’.
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