Bob Pritchard on Customer Service
We work with companies around the world to help them produce awesome customer service. Most companies are not only not awesome, they are pathetic.
There are two aspects to customer care, one is providing awesome service and the second is to ‘add value’ to every interaction with the customer. The key to the provision of exceptional service lies in the quality of your company’s people management.
A recent 10-year study by Sheffield University in England demonstrated that people management is three times as important as research and development in improving productivity and profitability, and six times more important than business strategy.
For successful management, a high EQ, (a measure of self-awareness, self-control, motivational ability, empathy and social skills) was more than twice as important as intellectual skills. These skills are also essential to creating a customer centric culture in a business.
The first step in developing an excellent customer service culture is to hire the right people. Many businesses believe the only people that need to have great customer skills are those on the front line. However, it is often surprising how many of your team actually deals with customers. Take our business as an example:
Our clients not only speak with me, they also speak with a number of other people in the company throughout the course of a project. These include receptionists, researchers, graphics people and so on. All members of our team, irrespective of their role, must project the same enthusiasm for the client that I do. And they do, because that is part of our company culture. If you look at your own business, you may be surprised at how many of your team come in contact with the customer. Do they all share your customer values? If not, your business is at risk.
One of the reasons Amazon.com has achieved exceptional brand equity is because it has empowered its customer service representatives to do anything to satisfy the customer. They can even buy books at the corner bookstore to satisfy a customer!
One of my favorite sayings is that “ it is easier to change people, than it is to change people.” Don’t employ your team on hard skills, qualifications and experience; hire them for their smile, customer skills and attitude. You can teach technical skills. If you have to teach people to smile and be nice to internal and external customers, you have chosen the wrong people. Hire people who like people, people who are empathetic.
The best customer service is delivered by people who see things as the customer sees it, not how the company sees it.
There are two types of customers in any organization, internal and external. It is important to remember that to maintain a highly cohesive and motivated work force, exceptional service is as important with internal customers it is with external ones. Coupled with a good environment and a shared vision, great internal customer relations in turn influences external customers. If any of your personnel do not have a great service attitude, replace them before the cancer spreads.
A customer centric company culture begins with leadership…It is important to realize that developing great customer service in your organization is not as simple as holding a seminar and saying this is how it is done. It is not about rote learning, it is not as simple as step 1. Smile, step 2. “Would you like fries with that”? Before you can begin training there must be a culture change. Training without culture change and a genuine example set by the executives will be met with cynicism and distrust.
The problem is that most people who go to a training session get hyped for a short period and then immediately revert back to their old ways. To be effective we must continue training and lead by example.
Employers need to set an example by doing whatever needs to be done. Effective leadership cannot be achieved by command or a thick rulebook, only by example and by building core values. Where these values mirror that of the employees, you will enjoy success.