Last year I published a blog post on the ways that leaders can set an example in their workplace and what they can specifically do to ensure they bring the customer service agenda into their interactions with team members. Whilst anyone can lead customer service, it doesn’t need to be the chief executive officer; he or she will need to lead customer service at a strategic level. It is, therefore, important to be aware of some of the focus areas that will give the organisation the best chance at success when it comes to customer service improvements.
1. Ensure staff can see the rewards that come from improving customer service
Leaders are often result-orientated; however, when it comes to customer service the business still sees results, but the real impact is seen in the rewards that stem from customer service. But do all of the staff know and see these rewards too? Typically there are four rewards that can come from exceptional customer service — the challenge is whether you can see all of them. Once there is a strong culture of service in the organisation there will be a clear improvement in the return on investment in the people. Once team members develop human connections with customers, repeat business will increase as customers will form a relationship with the organisation and the teams. When service is taken to the next level and customers start leaving with positive memories, the reward is then receiving recommendations through positive word of mouth. Finally, when the team sees that every touch point of the business is part of the customer experience and they take care of that, then the reward is recognition by other organisations and the wider community. These four rewards are essential to be communicated to staff regularly.
2. Be aware of the customer service challenges that face the organisation
The path to success in customer service has many obstacles on the way. It goes to prove that no organisation is at an advantage over another because these obstacles do pop up at various stages. The key to the formula of overcoming these obstacles is firstly to be aware of them, and secondly to predict at what stage they will likely be found. This is because the path to exceptional customer service requires a journey. The biggest difficulty for organisations on this long journey is that they sometimes don’t recognise that something is slowing them down. I have identified five obstacles: Lack of alignment is where the organisation is saying one thing about customer service but in practice doing everything else to achieve excellence; Lack of credibility is where leaders aren’t able to relentlessly deliver the customer service message with conviction and stamina to create the desired or right impact across the organisation; Lack of resources is the excuse given where the organisation cannot see within their own business ways to make their team work better for greater customer service outcomes; Lack of clarity is the time where organisations are doing the right things, but the idea of what success looks like for them is undefined; and finally not recognising and being connected with changing customers and how this impacts the organisation.
3. Instil the right customer service values in all team members
There has been a lot of talk about values lately. They are easy to brainstorm using a thesaurus and even easier to put on a poster in the lunchroom. We are taught to have good values in school, so it is even easier to come up with a list of desired values that will work well for the organisation. Those who wish to lead customer-focused organisations need to move beyond the values of a good citizen and instil values that directly link to all of the customer service efforts in the organisation. The DIME™ A-E-I-O-U values are a great way to start. ‘A’ is for accountability. Is everyone in the organisation accountable for delivering exceptional customer service? ‘E’ is for energetic. Does everyone in the organisation have an energetic approach to customer service? ‘I’ is for innovative. Are people in the organisation innovative in the way customer service is delivered? ‘O’ is for optimistic. Is everyone in the organisation optimistic about the value of a long-term journey for service excellence? Finally, ‘U’ is for unique. Does everyone in the organisation embrace customers as unique individuals and bring a unique approach to customer service?
4. Know how to make improvements to customer service
I have written before about service knowledge versus service understanding. The reason why customer service is still a problem today is because leaders don’t always know exactly how to make improvements. This is because customer service is a little bit more complicated than the basic definition of the word, emphasised through motivational training whilst only really directing the staff to smile and give eye contact. Putting customer service at the top of your business and then looking at everything that cascades from this will enable you to see and make effective improvements. As customer service has a relationship with the entire business, there are four steps which form the DIME™ approach that make this simpler for leaders to follow. These are to deliberately make customer service part of your business culture; develop human connections through customer service interactions; leave positive memories with customers; and design total brand experiences at every point of customer contact.
5. Develop a customer service charter
I have previously referred to the common purpose as an internal way for your team to deliver on your external brand promise to customers, but what does that specifically or literally mean and look like? Organisations, both large and small, need to have non-negotiable standards when it comes to service, and customers through their wisdom of choice also look for these standards when making a decision to buy the products or services on offer. A good way to do this is through the form of a customer service charter. This is a document that describes the service commitment when you deliver your products or services. Listed as a set of promises, your customers will know what they can expect, and how they will be assisted by your team members. So what does a customer service charter look like? The DIME™ Customer Service Charter has 10 promises which define not just the approach, but also how the approach fits in to every customer. This makes sure they are more than just words on paper.
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