One thing that organisations need to do more regularly is listen to their customers and be on the front line with them so they can physically see what influences their behaviour. Just because we are experiencing a change in economic times doesn’t mean that customers are not willing to pay a premium for your service and be less price-sensitive. Leaders need to look at each touch point of the organisation, including the way employees are interacting with customers and listen to the unsolicited feedback, to accurately paint a picture of what the customer experience looks like. This will result in customers being treated as unique individuals.
Customers like to feel special. For this to happen, those giving customer service need to be unique in their approach. This is essential on a number of levels. For example, consistent values align all employees in an organisation, and we are all unique, right? However, embracing uniqueness is different and decreases the chance of employees becoming robotic. Customers will choose an organisation to do business with based on their unique point of difference, and for many organisations, this unique point of difference is their employees. Senior leaders will notice unique employees, and create opportunities for them to progress and advance within the organisation. With change affecting organisations at a rapid pace, leaders can benefit by focusing on the following four areas to be at the forefront and learn the unique needs of customers.
1. Focus on internal communication
The reason why most organisations find it hard to reach exceptional levels of customer service is because its importance is faintly cascaded through the ranks of staff. It needs to be done deliberately and constantly. It’s not about being over the top, rather about reinforcement. There are many employee touch points throughout an organisation where leaders can be deliberate in reinforcing culture. Weekly meetings or daily briefings are great examples of times where messaging about customer service can be planned to reinforce and celebrate desired behaviours amongst the team. This cannot be done in a subtle way. Briefings or other internal communication should be focused on customers, well-rehearsed and delivered by senior leaders with conviction and stamina. In order to create cohesiveness between the team, all briefings and communications should also be structured in a way that will over time become familiar to organisations but focus on the unique needs of staff and customers in order to achieve maximum impact.
2. Keep a close eye on technology
Technology is an important part of customer service today, and organisations that do not embrace this change in their industry are at risk of losing relevance when compared to their competitors who leverage off technology. It is important to note that the relationship between technology and customer service is identical to the relationship between fast food and a healthy diet — it’s all about moderation. Too much fast food will ruin a perfectly healthy diet; however, when balanced, a person can still have a healthy lifestyle and enjoy some of their food pleasures from time to time. As technology and customer service is a relationship, one of the biggest pitfalls that face organisations is the risk of letting technology replace customer service completely, and not knowing the right place for human interactions combined with technology. Undoubtedly, technology makes it easier to deliver customer service, but it makes it harder to deliver exceptional customer service, because whilst it helps on the one hand, it changes a customer’s expectations on the other hand. This is because it influences their perceptions of the experience, something that organisations cannot afford to lose touch with.
3. See customers as individuals
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. Monitor the physical and virtual customer environment
Whilst the people of your organisation deliver customer service, every part of your organisation, including the physical place and environment, influence the customer experience. This is where you need to decide whether customers should feel at home in your organisation. How have you set up your physical location and do your customers know their way through it? Everything about the physical location (including your website) needs to be intuitive and simple. In previous posts, I have called on business leaders to be involved in listening to their customers; however, in this post it is all about listening to your staff. Those who are working on the front line continuously working with customers would be the best people to make honest recommendations on what can be changed to benefit the customer. For those thinking this will take too long and cost too much, it is about looking at the basics. Start with cleanliness. Walt Disney had a vision for a clean park and, 60 years on, Disneyland is always clean, something that really does matter to their Guests. Look at each touchpoint for your customers and ask, could it be cleaner?
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