lonely straight road on lanzarote island, spain.

Clarity and Optimism for an Exceptional Customer Service Future

It’s easy to imagine a world where your entire team has a heart for service at their core. An ideal scenario is a customer service team that arrives at work each day with the passion to genuinely interact with your customers with the full support of the leadership group. But to get to this point can’t be left to chance. A well-defined and calculated plan — not just for this coming year, but the next five years — is necessary for this scenario to come to reality. It’s easy to look at other organisations who do customer service really well and say “that’s what we need”, but the reality is that each organisation is different and leaders need to understand what will work for them. One of the key values that organisations need to get through this long haul is optimism.

Spitefulness, stubbornness and vindictiveness are three traits that work against optimism. People and organisations that always focus on what didn’t work last time or the way things have always been done will never move forward. When employees are challenged in conflict situations with customers, those who are optimistic will be able to focus on positive results. Sure, optimism leaves a chance that things may not work the way they were intended, but an optimistic approach showcases the genuine warmth in a person that the customer can therefore trust. Looking at it from the customer’s point of view, those customers who approach an organisation with optimism are easier to serve than customers who are not optimistic. Below are four areas that organisations can focus on to be clearer about their customer service future.

1. Develop a customer service purpose statement

Having a common purpose, that intangible goal and reason for coming to work and serving your customers, is the first step setting up a long term service plan. It is important to get this right as the rest of the customer service culture will grow from this point. Most organisations have a vision, which is something to strive to. Then are the mission statements that help achieve the vision. The common purpose is a statement that has no expiry date. You will eventually reach your vision and then set a new one, but the common purpose should be something that lasts and guides every decision you make in the business. The difference is, that it is set up around the customer. So to develop a simple common purpose statement about your customer service (P), that is a clear statement that tells your staff why (W) they should do something over (/) everything else (E). For those who prefer a formula, this would read as P = W/E. When you bring it together it looks like the word ‘we’, because we all unite under one common purpose.

2. Make the atmosphere of your organisation service friendly

With a common purpose set, it is now time to look deeper into creating a structure for our service interactions, which can be also defined as a service atmosphere. Whilst we might have the right intention with our interactions, there are many things that are in the way that prevent us from achieving our service potential, like a fog that makes it hard to see past. Think about your living room at home. I’m sure you have a cabinet with some valuable or fragile antiques, or things that are for display only. Would you leave these items in full view if you were going to host a party with kids? You would most likely put some things away to minimise the chance of them being accidently broken, but more so, you don’t want your guests to be on edge and worried that they might break something either. The same rule applies to customer service; you need to make the atmosphere of your organisation customer service friendly which will help clear the ‘fog’ so you can be optimistic about the things that you are doing.

3. Find a point of difference for your organisation

Aiming to achieve ‘Disney-service’ is the easy way to go about planning for long-term excellence. But too often, organisations focus on making their customer service better, but don’t see the limitations that exist within their own industry. Often, these limits are boundaries worth breaking; however, when working in an organisation or industry for some time, people become oblivious to the opportunities that are out there that they can use to make their customer service stand out. It’s interesting as customer service often brings up humorous stories of negativity which people can gossip and write about, but it is these very things that serve as the answer to making change and creating positive memories with customers. By looking at the negative stereotypes of your industry and thinking about ways you can make a difference to them is the key to finding a customer service point of difference. A good example (which also turned into a creative marketing campaign and fell under some criticism) was the 2010 ANZ Bank campaign: ‘Barbara lives in bank world’. Industry stereotypes were used here to show a customer service point of difference.

4. Allow creativity to flourish

Customer service can be enhanced by giving your organisation a theme. I’m not referring to simply the branding of website colours and wall paint, but the actual theme that consciously tells customers from the moment they see your business they are in a different world and are captivated in that experience whilst they are doing business with you. This is achieved through creativity which fuels optimism once it flourishes. Business leaders should empower the entire team to be creative, not just the marketing department as seeing things in different ways improves creativity, and a team that works on things together will be more optimistic about its future. Humans are very curious people and naturally will look for ways to make things better; however, this mindset needs to not only be enabled, but driven continuously as an essential part of doing business.

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

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