Depending on your industry there are a variety of terms that are used in reference to your customer. Patient, passenger, client, colleague are just a few. Guest is also another word that appears frequently in organisations like Disneyland and here in Australia by Virgin Australia. Whilst the word itself can enter the vernacular of your organisation overnight, the question is not whether to use it, but what meaning is drawn from it. It is easy to get sucked into making superficial changes to language and other overarching areas in the organisation to demonstrate a stronger customer focus; however, it really needs to be incorporated into the heart and DNA of what your organisation stands for. In my opinion, customers should be treated as guests. But not just any guests. Guests are people that you would see in your home. Whilst you’re not literally having every one of your customers/guests enter your home, the way you deliver service to them should be as if they were in your home. This blog examines five ways that guests in your household can be incorporated into the customer service of your organisation.
1. They are invited
I always relate to the opening scenes of Everybody Loves Raymond, where Ray goes to great lengths to hide from his parents who are on their way over from across the street. But putting unwanted family aside, when you have someone over to your home you normally would invite them first. This might be in the formal sense of sending them a written invitation, structured with details and an RSVP, or it might be an informal telephone call saying ‘come around whenever, I’ll leave the front door open for you.’ We firstly do this because we want the company of others, but secondly we need to invite them, otherwise they wouldn’t feel comfortable in fronting up unannounced. When you apply this principle to your role and organisation, are you making it inviting for your customers to come and do business with you, or are you making it hard for them?
2. You make the place clean for them
Once you have invited someone over to your home you want to prepare for their arrival, and usually this is in the form of cleaning. It doesn’t suggest that you live in a mess, but you always want to make your place look nice as it is a reflection of you. We clean our cars because people see us in them all the time, but our home is a private and personal place. We feel comfortable inside, but go to the efforts of changing the environment for our guests and ensure that it is kept clean for the duration of their stay. The moment your doors open for business each day your work ‘place’ should be clean and ready for your customers to enter. Now a clean workplace doesn’t mean you have a perfect customer experience, but keeping it clean (through the entire day) is not only aesthetically pleasing but also shows that you care. Think of a time you’ve gone to the airport to take the first morning flight and you arrive at 5.00am. All of the tensile barriers are lined up perfectly. But when you fly out in the afternoon, the queue race looks in no way orderly because the staff have not kept up on this during the day. What areas do you think are slipping as the day goes on?
3. They are greeted
I’m sure we can all think of a time where a staff member has not acknowledged us. Intentional or accidental, or even times we have to go out of our way to make the first move. When someone rings your doorbell you quickly come and open the door and greet them warmly and genuinely. Or if guests are entering on their own, you make a point of coming up to them to thank them for coming. People greet guests in their home all the time, but forget to do this in the workplace. Why should it be any different here? If you imagine that your customers are not at work but in your home you would make a point of greeting every one of them.
4. You offer them something
When a guest enters your home, you may offer to take their jacket or bag and place it somewhere. Then you show them around so they know where the bathroom is and, if it’s a party, where they can get their food. Next you offer them a drink or ask if you can get them something. It’s called being hospitable. Customers need to be treated in exactly the same way. Depending on your business, you want to show that you are ‘of service’ to them. Since you treat your workplace like your home, you want to do anything possible to make them more comfortable, so they feel as if they are at home too. Not just at the beginning, but the whole way through their visit. If you do this, they will certainly want to come back and visit you again.
5. You care for them
Whilst someone is inside your house you are responsible for them, their welfare and safety. You are always at their service and want to make sure that they are enjoying themselves. Sometimes it is easy to go over the top and care for people so much that you don’t enjoy the time yourself. At your workplace it doesn’t have to mean that you are always on edge, but being aware, or deliberately making sure you show the customer that you are caring for them and they have not been forgotten. At home you may continually ask someone if they need more food or drink, but also think of their comfort. Have you ever asked them if the temperature is OK — they might be too embarrassed to tell you it is a little cold or too hot. What are some common areas or touchpoints that exist in your workplace that you need to show customers that you care?
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