Serving UP A Great Customer Experience
I was reminded yesterday after a less than pleasant transaction at our local pharmacy that good customer service these days is uncommon.
And a great customer experience is a rare thing indeed.
Looking further in depth at the possible reasons customer service lags, in both small and large companies, is that the leaders in these organizations have simply taken their eye off the ball when it comes to service.
Small companies usually fail to achieve great customer service due to:
- Fast, unexpected growth and shifted focuses
- Never part of the business model
- Was never strong in the company culture
- Training of people to deliver service was poor at best
- Leaders in these companies started to pull away to focus on growth
Large companies that have failed here have done so because:
- Focus becomes on profits and shareholders
- Systems develop that benefit of the organization and not the customer or client
- Too many layers of hierarchy that remove leaders from the customers
- Policies, procedures, and legalities have gotten in the way
- Service gets squeezed out for more technical or expedient proficiencies (like self-check out counters)
Regardless of the specifics, the core issue for poor service is that leaders start to focus on the company as an entity and not the customer as the purpose. They see the customer as a means to the companies growth and profits, and their careers, and not as the sole purpose of why they exist.
Thus it’s incumbent on every leader to culturally change these models to Serve UP A Great customer Experience.
We don’t need to state studies or statistics here to prove this. They are out there and show that those companies that work to make excellent service THE priority in their organization have loyal customers, lower turnover, higher margins, and more sustainable long-term growth than companies that do not.
So what is a leader’s charge to serve up a great customer experience? Here are some points to ponder:
- Values and Mission Statement. It starts here. If your core statement doesn’t state any focus on the customer, then it needs to be changed right away.
- Hiring and Training. Getting the right people on board, with the right training and giving them ALL the tools they need to excel (not just do) at service will always make the difference.
- Be There and Continue Training. Leaders of ALL levels need to constantly be involved in their operations to understand what their company is delivering. It’s not just metrics, but setting the pace and example for others to follow. But beyond that, they need to coach and encourage the ongoing improvement (EVERY day is a training day for EVERYONE). If a leader delegates any of this responsibility, they send a toxic message that service is not important.
- Streamline Systems and Policies. Look at your internal mechanisms. Do customers endure unpleasant service because of a policy for a return, or long waits due to technical operational systems such as labor matrixes or order lead times? Systems should be scrutinized regularly, triggered by internal streamline audits and external customer feedback, to ensure NOTHING gets in the way of a stellar experience.
- Never Arrive. Customer service is not a “fix it and move on” initiative. It’s a combination of culture, reputation, and lifeblood for your organization. By letting up on the gas, the momentum slows down and it takes more effort to get back up to speed. By keeping the pace and focus constantly, it becomes part of the cultural DNA of your company and gives you a reputation that you will consistently strive for because that is who you’ll become.
Serving UP a great experience, because it’s so rare, will be that market edge that every company looks to gain. As a leader, you can set in motion a tremendous shift in your teams, and in your industry, by giving your customers what they don’t expect, but always deserve.