President and founder of the Service Quality Institute John Tschohl says even the most successful companies are in constant competition for business. What sets them apart often boils down to one factor: outstanding customer service. This article appears in Sign Africa Journal.
Most firms in the world believe they provide awesome service. They are addicted to advertising and marketing using expensive media. The biggest issue I see is they have no idea how inconsistent and weak their service really is. Most firms believe they dont need help, but employee turnover is high. The solution is staring them in the face: it’s their reluctance to invest in their people to develop a customer driven workforce.
First, you’ve got to understand you’re in the service business. Most companies think they are in manufacturing and retail airlines don’t know they are in the service business. Southwest Airlines are successful because they understand they’re a customer service company — they just happen to be an airline. Customer service is a critical piece of your business, and you should fine-tune it as much as you can.
Second, you have to look at all the policies, procedures and systems you have in place that make life miserable for customers. You could have the nicest people in the world, but you could have stupid hours, stupid rules and stupid procedures, that just tick your customers off. When you make it that difficult for customers to do business with you, they find someone else who is more accommodating. Your customers can do quite a few things much better than you can, and if your business isn’t embracing this fact by viewing customer service as a branch of your marketing department with tremendous ROI, you’re doing yourself, as well as your customers, a disservice.
Third, you have to have empowerment and speed. Every single person has to be able to make fast powered decisions on the spot, and it better be in favour of the customers. Employee empowerment may be the most underutilised tool in all of customer service. Intellectually, employees know what to do but they need to be authorised and empowered by upper management to take action. No one should have to go higher up to get permission to help a customer.
Fourth, you have to be more careful about whom you hire. Service leaders hire one person out of 50 interviewed, sometimes one out of 100, but they’re very, very careful. Look for the cream, the A players, instead of bringing on B and C players. Identify several people in your organisation you wish you could clone.
Write down their characteristics and traits and create your own benchmark of the right person for each position.
Fifth, educate and train the entire staff on the art of customer service with something new and fresh every four to six months. Let’s say you want to create the service culture. No matter if you have a hundred or a thousand employees, you better have something new and fresh, so it’s constantly in front of them so when they wake up every day and they go to work, they say, ‘Fantastic, I’m taking care of customers?’ When management is committed to customer service by daily word and deed, the result is an infrastructure that facilitates free communication internally and that yields organisational culture.
Finally, measure the results financially so that you know the impact it’s making on revenue, sales, profit and market share. Everything you do should be built around the concept of creating an incredible customer experience. Perhaps the simplest way of creating a service culture is a variation of the golden rule: treat your customers as you wish to be treated. Make your customers excited that you’re in business. Make them grateful that they have the opportunity to buy your services or products. Make them feel like they are your most important customer. Make your service so outstanding that they wouldn’t think of doing business with anyone else. And then find a way to make your service even better.
John Tschohl is a professional speaker, trainer, and consultant. He is the President and founder of Service Quality Institute with operations in over 40 countries. He is considered to be one of the foremost authorities on service strategy, success, empowerment and customer service. https://johntschohl.com