By Dana Borowka & Judy Estrin
[dropcaps type=”circle” color=”” background=””]W[/dropcaps]hen it comes right down to it, the one definitive factor that separates us from our competitors is our quality of customer service. Customers can deal with the occasional problem if they are treated like jewels when they contact the company to rectify whatever the problem was.
Tom Peters once addressed the argument that you can’t build a business on customer service as your differentiator because anyone can do it. He countered that, in fact, you can use customer service as a differentiator, because the truth is anyone can’t do it. It’s very hard, if not impossible, to replicate great customer service in an existing organization that doesn’t have it. Only with a leader who is a customer service fanatic can you even have a remote chance of doing it.
In today’s market, the objective is to have customers who are delighted with your service – over and over again. Customers who will make referrals who in turn become customers and the word spreads. Peggie Arvidson-Dailey, founder of Pet Care Business University and the Pet-Care Business Success System™. Author of “How to Make Your Customers Crazy…about You” advocates business owners become customer-enthusiasm gurus.
Take the time to focus on your customer in everything you do and follow these nine simple guidelines:
- Evaluate your customer base. Ask yourself who your best customers are and why. What similarities do they share? What are their core needs and how do you solve them?
- Keep the customer in mind. Before you initiate any new policy/procedures, ask yourself how it will benefit your ideal customers. Changing your hiring practice? Changing your billing process? Remember to look at everything from the customer’s perspective.
- Create systems that maintain customer contact. Don’t expect customers to return. Regularly invite them back!
- Communicate even when you have nothing to sell. Pay attention to them as individuals; show interest in your customer as a member of your community – no matter how large that community is!
- Ask for feedback and follow through. How can you serve your customers better? When you get suggestions, consider them seriously – and implement when appropriate. Developing ways to serve customers better based on their feedback leads to enthusiastic customers.
- Foster trust. Integrity is the key. Do what you say you do – and don’t pretend you can do or provide services you can’t.
- Be consistent. Branding works – from how you answer the phone to what you put in your promotional material.
- Be easy to work with. Make it easy for customers to buy.
- Create a customer-enthusiasm training program. Hire and train to the customer service level you want for your customers.
Think you are on top of your game? Got the 9 steps down to a science? Take the Customer Service 101 quiz developed by Bill Werst founder of Growth Associates and author of Common Sense Managing: Simple Actions That Produce Results.
CUSTOMER SERVICE 101 QUIZ:
1. CUSTOMER DRIVEN VISION:
♦ Does your vision clearly focus on customer satisfaction?
♦ Do the people throughout your organization know and own the vision?
2. VALUED CUSTOMERS’ NEEDS and EXPECTATIONS:
♦ Do you know who your most valuable customers are?
♦ Do you know what it will take to meet the needs of your best customers?
♦ Is your market research sample reflecting your targeted customer base?
♦ Are you ‘listening’ to what the customers are saying or what you ‘want’ to hear?
3. CUSTOMER DRIVEN OPERATIONAL PLAN:
♦ Do your organization’s plans focus on doing the right things right?
♦ Will they result in meeting the needs of your best customers?
4. PLAN IMPLEMENTATION:
♦ Do your hiring practices complement your vision? Do you do:
– Skill testing
– Email and phone etiquette evaluation
– In-depth work style and personality testing
♦ Does your training produce measurable results that further your vision?
♦ Does each person have the authority to fulfill his contribution to your vision?
♦ Are the people given timely feedback and recognition on their job performance?
5. SATISFACTION MEASUREMENT:
♦ Is your customer satisfaction measurement based on customer needs and expectations?
♦ Does it proactively identify opportunities for improvement?
♦ Are your customers satisfied?
6. CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT:
♦ Is your vision still current and appropriate?
♦ Have you reassessed who your most valuable customers in the last 6 – 12 months?
♦ Have you reassessed what your most valuable customers need in the last 6 – 12 months?
♦ How can your current plans be improved to further streamline customer driven actions?
♦ Are you measuring customer satisfaction on an ongoing and timely basis?
♦ What can you do right now that will improve your organization within the next 30 days? 90 days? 180 days?
Would your customers answer the above questions as you just did?
Looking inside, how would your staff answer these same questions? Do they know and understand the company vision? Have you conducted workshops to talk about how to have a shared vision and a living entity?
Are your employees free to make decisions on service without having to always ask a higher source? How do they treat each other? Internal customer service should hold equal value with external customer service!
Do you have a performance management system in place to train and develop your people? Do you hire for today or for the organization, as you want it to be?
Bottomline, it takes leadership and vision to instill a customer service philosophy in your company. It takes training, leadership and reinforcement to achieve the employee performance at your desired customer service level. It takes regular communication with your customers – those who are delighted and those who may not be – to ensure that you are consciously monitoring what your employees are doing and how customers perceive your business. It means moving into action and implementing changes at the very least in reaction to what you regularly learn if not ideally, being ahead of the curve, anticipating shifts and staying on top of your customers’ needs and expectations.
The theme repeated by all the customer service “gurus” is: know your customer, what their needs are, adapt accordingly, empower employees to act and hire for the BestFit®!
CONCLUSION: The Time for Thinkers Has Come!
It is vital to have ‘Thinkers’ in our organizations. A client of ours has several hundred customer services reps and encourages all the various teams to contribute ideas for improving processes, systems, customer interactions, etc. One individual was very frustrated with having to wait 10 seconds while the system updated information, thus having to make customers wait during the updating cycle. 10 seconds is a long time to wait – try it for yourself – count – 1 one thousand – 2 one thousand – 3 one thousand and you get the idea. So this person went to the IT/IS manager to share the challenge which then was followed by several group meetings with team leaders and within two weeks they reduced the time from 10 seconds down to 2 seconds. That’s huge! 8 second savings multiplied out by 200 customer services reps – you do the math. Everyone was so excited that they had a party to celebrate and provided the individual with a “thank you” check along with a three day cruise to Mexico.
By having just one thinker on board – someone willing to speak up – to be dissatisfied when customers are having to wait – to want to improve things in the work environment… amazing results can take place. We all need to have more of these types of thinkers on board. We need to create an environment so individuals are encouraged to contribute and share ideas that will increase client satisfaction as well as affecting the bottom line. Hiring is the key. Today is the day to add the key characteristics to your job descriptions so that you can begin to add to your teams the thinkers that will drive your organization to the next level!
If you hire the right people, you’ll not only have satisfied customers but you can also create potential savings and profit. It is imperative that every organization hire right the first time and do appropriate skills testing for grammar, computer, email, phone etiquette and understand how the person will interact with others and their learning style. This can be done through having them complete an in-depth work style and personality assessment. You can read more about the various options and how to select an instrument in our book, Cracking the Personality Code. To find out more, please give us a call at (310) 453-6556, ext. 403, email us at Dana@lighthouseconsulting.com or by visiting our website, www.lighthouseconsulting.com.
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Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your organization”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. They also have a full service consulting division that provides domestic and international interpersonal coaching, executive onboarding, leadership training, global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training, operational productivity improvement, 360s and employee surveys as well as a variety of workshops. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He provides workshops on hiring, managing for the future, and techniques to improve interpersonal communications that have a proven ROI. He is the co-author of the books, Cracking the Personality Code and Cracking the Business Code. To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com.
If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, Dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com
Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.