Some businesses have tried for years to improve customer service. They’ve launched initiatives and trained employees, but an exceptional service mentality just doesn’t seem to stick.
The problem is that most business owners haven’t succeeded at making service part of their culture. It’s not about following a list of rules or steps that employees have been taught. According to customer service guru Ron Kaufman, it’s about changing hearts, minds and attitudes – infusing a genuine (not feigned) desire to put service at the core of everything your business does.
Think of it as “hardwiring” service into your business. It’s not something you turn on an off. It’s always there, and it won’t fade away.
But how do you do that? Here are seven steps suggested by Kaufman, author of the New York Times bestseller “Uplifting Service” (Evolve Publishing).
1. Declare that service is king. The first step is to clearly state – and often repeat – that service is a top priority. This by itself can be powerful and is the beginning of change (but only the beginning). Declare service as a top priority in your speaking, writing, meetings, ads, website, newsletter, tweets and daily actions. Make the message clear to everyone that while procedures count, creating value for others through superior service counts the most.
2. Settle on your service language. It helps to develop a certain way of talking about service within your particular business. Some large service-oriented companies do this. For example, Disney refers to its employees as “cast members.” At FedEx, they say “our blood runs purple.” And at the luxury hotel chain Ritz-Carlton they call themselves “ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.”
3. Set a good example. Employees look to the business owner and other managers for guidance. That’s not just spoken guidance, but role model guidance as well. If you display the utmost regard for customer service in your actions, others will follow. This will be more powerful that simply telling employees what to do.
4. Measure what matters. Businesses often try to measure customer service by counting complaints, compliments, engagement (on social media, for example) and via customer satisfaction surveys. But these are backward-looking measures, focused on the past. Something needed to happen for a customer to offer a complaint or compliment. Try focusing on measuring new ideas and unexpected actions that improve service and produce a compliment. Ask yourself and your employees: Are your actions creating value? Are you taking enough new actions? This is what you should measure.
5. Give employees what they need. The much overused buzzword for this is empowerment. Employees need to be “empowered” in order to offer exceptional service. But what does that really mean? Basically this: Employees must feel confident in their ability to take actions that improve customer service. You can foster this by mentoring and encouraging them, and helping remove the fear of making a mistake.
6. Remove roadblocks to better service. These roadblocks often come in the form of policies and procedures that your business has put in place. These might be formal and written, or simply “understood.” To create a true service culture, you need to find the policy roadblocks in your business that might be getting in the way of providing better customer service. Ask yourself: What prevents your people from taking better care of your customers? What stops them from helping their co-workers?
7. Keep it going. This may be the hardest part of all. It’s relatively easy to declare service a top priority. What’s tough is keeping service a top priority when it bumps up against other pressing needs. And it’s tough – at least at first – to use your service language every single day. To keep everyone focused on service, try these five things: 1) Recognize individual successes. 2) Find opportunities to educate. 3) Be a role model for what needs to happen. 4) Celebrate other role models. 5) Acknowledge customer service achievements.
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