Building the foundations of customer satisfaction and loyalty involves everyone.
For any organization, satisfying customers consists of a series of steps in numerous processes in which all employees are involved.
Without a clear understanding of these processes, their interrelationships, and why they exist, this intricate “web of service” can become snarled and inadvertently create a less-than-satisfying experience for the external customer.
This cross-functional approach to rendering consistently outstanding customer service must be intentionally managed.
Imagine throwing a pebble into a pond. First you hear a “kerplunk!” and see the plume of water caused by the pebble’s entry. Then you observe the circular ripples that start from the pebble’s entry point growing in size as the energy from the initial impact is dispersed over an increasingly wider area. You watch the ripples until you can’t see them any longer as the energy dissipates altogether.
This is a good description of customer service. The initial entry point of the pebble is like the first-hand contact with a customer. It is a “moment of truth” in that how this contact plays itself out is how the customer experiences and therefore views your organization.
It creates a feeling about you and your company. In short, these moments fashion in the mind of the customer the truth about your company.
Your most powerful tool to create and manage a truly outstanding customer service experience – one that causes customers to return to re-experience it – is language. Words have power, indeed.
Have you ever had a child ask you to do something for them? And when they ask you to do something for them, when do they want it done? Right now. And how many of you have put them off with words like, “not now,” “I’m too busy,” “later,” “in a while.” I have to raise my hand the highest because when my children were little, I’d put them off with a single word, “tomorrow.”
I didn’t realize how frequently I was saying this to them until one day when we were standing in a checkout lane in a grocery store. Let me ask you, what’s there in every checkout lane in every grocery store in this country? Candy. And where is it located? That’s right! Down there – where they can see it, grab it, unwrap it and consume it even before they’ve asked for it!
Standing in front of us that day was a woman with her young son sitting in the cart and he was making a scene, demanding some chewing gum. Finally, to quiet the youngster down, the clerk produced a stick of gum and handed it to the child. His mother said, “And what do you say?” The boy turned to the clerk and said, “charge it!”
Now it was our turn. I usually didn’t get my children anything from the checkout lane but on that day, for some reason, I consented to do so. I can’t remember what I got my son, Jeremiah, but I do remember what I got for my daughter, Rachel: a package of my favorite candy – lifesavers.
In the car on the way home, Rachel was unwrapping the lifesavers when the air inside the car filled with the sweet aroma of my childhood. I began to salivate. I couldn’t help myself. I also couldn’t help the next words that drooled out of my mouth. I said, “Rachel, may I have a lifesaver?” And she said: “tomorrow.”
It was at that moment I realized that with a single word, spoken over time, I had created a reality in the heads and hearts of my children that said this to them: “daddy will be our daddy and do daddy things with us – tomorrow.” I also realized that if I was ever going to be a father to my children in the ways they needed, I needed to be one today, for tomorrow never comes.
The words you use create a reality in the heads and hearts of those to whom you speak. What reality are you creating in your workplace? In your home? Is it the reality you want to create?
Organizations must learn techniques to slow down the processes involved in service delivery and recovery and focus on what really counts for their customers. Another way of putting this is that all employees who deal with customers need to intentionally examine the processes they are involved in that touch the customer in some manner.
Design and implement a customer service infrastructure that results in the same high quality, satisfying service experience for every customer every time. Beginning with understanding current performance as measured by the client’s internal and external customers, the process moves participants through awareness of current obstacles and on to improved processes.
Each of the following components of true customer service should be explored in depth and action plans developed to integrate each into a comprehensive customer service strategy and process in your organization.
- Attitude (courtesy, sincerity)
- Communication (listening, paraphrasing, verbal/non-verbal expression of care, negotiating, making the customer right)
- Integrity (honesty, confidentiality)
- Value (giving more than is usual)
- Involvement (making it a fun and worthwhile experience)
- Gratitude (true appreciation)
Walking the Talk and Talking the Walk (acting to implement the vision of stellar customer service and consistently communicating that vision).
About the Author
Ken Wallace, M. Div., CSL has been in the organizational development field since 1973. He is a seasoned consultant, speaker and executive coach with extensive business experience in multiple industries who provides practical organizational direction and support for business leaders.