Every company on the planet says that they value customer service and “go the extra mile” to satisfy their customers. Sadly, very, very few actually mean it. The problem is in the leadership – it comes from the top, down. How come? Leaders’ lips are moving; however, their actions are saying something completely different.
Let’s break it down so that hopefully after reading this, you can put some actions in place to join the very few businesses in the world that actually make enviable margins and profits because customer service is a priority for the whole company.
Customer Service is a belief that that the customer is on a journey with your company. Their journey consists of multiple touchpoints:
– A business card
– Your website
– Email, Social Media, TV, Radio, Billboards and Print Advertising, etc.
– Your phone system and receptionist (that’s IF your customer can actually get through your IVR system!)
– Your marketing efforts
– The Sales, Account Management and Sales Engineering departments
– HR (Yes! The people you recruit, assess, hire and bring on board effect customer satisfaction)
– All of the operations people (remember the people that actually deliver your product or service)
– Accounting (Yep! Them too. Remember they approve financing, send invoices and collect Accounts Receivable)
– Contractors that you partner with…
– The list goes on and on!
But here is what happens way too often: senior leaders stand up and say that the customers are everything, then they step down from their soapbox and cut customer service budgets, invest in technology that saves money but keeps customers away from reaching your people.
These conflicting objectives that get set up in the business that cause failures in the some or all of the customer touchpoints, as follows:
– Sales is incented on new acquisitions
– Marketing is incented on Social Media followers
– Finance is measured by Working Capital
– Operations is incented on cost containment
– Customer Service is incented on Net Promoter Scores (the propensity of customers to recommend your business to others)
Which results in:
– Revenue falls
– Productivity and collaboration inside the business declines
– Cost control measures don’t work
– And customers leave
Customer service is not one department. It requires the focus of the entire company. Everyone in the business (yes, even the janitorial staff) need to understand and align with an end-to-end program for serving customers – I say “Program” because customer service is intentional, and it looks different depending on your strategy. For example:
Southwest Airlines has embedded customer service throughout the entire company. So has Singapore Airlines. Yet, both their customer service programs look completely different. One delivers a ‘Fun and Friendly’ experience. The other delivers a ‘Luxury’ experience.Zappos and Amazon. Same ownership. Completely different customer experience.
Zappos is the benchmark (in my opinion) for exceeding customer expectations through care and Amazon is all about delivering ‘simple, easy and efficient.’ But the experience is embedded throughout the respective businesses.
Everyone needs to understand their role and responsibility in delivering the program.
For example: A few years ago, I was delivering a keynote speech for a group at a Four Seasons Hotel. When I was finished, I was heading out of the building via a freight elevator. The elevator stopped at the kitchen and a young man in a kitchen uniform got on the elevator pulling along with him two garbage bins. The doors closed and after mutual exchanges of pleasantries, I asked him what he did in the kitchen. He replied with a huge smile on his face; “I have a very important job! I keep the kitchen clean. When I do that, the Chefs can get fresh, quality dishes out to our guests that exceed their expectations!”
Robert Murray is a Vancouver, BC based Business Strategy Consultant, #1 Best Selling Author, and International Keynote Speaker. For further advice, insight and inspiration on how to unlock your inner leader, follow Robert on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
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