by Judy M McCutcheon
Some time ago I wrote about making your service count and why customers become difficult. This week I want to talk about your service culture and the importance of having a culture of service excellence that is prevalent throughout your organisation. It was Peter Drucker who said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” What is your culture eating?
When most people hear the phrase “customer service culture” they think about customer service training. However, building a customer-centric culture within your organisation is far beyond any one-off customer service training.
So ok, let’s assume that customer service training was the only thing that was required and that you engaged in the training two or three years ago because customer service was the buzz word. I want to assure you that the training cannot be once in a blue moon, and it cannot be done with the attitude that “this is a box that must be ticked.” Building a culture of service excellence which says to your customers you care, is vital for the sustainability of your business. Customers today have so many options available to them, that trying to compete on price alone is no longer a sensible option. Companies that want to stay ahead of the competition, must purposefully pursue a culture that is steeped in service excellence.
We are in the age of the customer, and companies must understand that the only way to stay in the game is by creating unique and unforgettable experiences for the customer. This is done through building meaningful relationships, making the customer the centre of what you do, creating value and exceeding expectations. It is no longer about satisfying your customers; your competition can do that easily. If you are interested in creating loyal customers then you must delight them, you must make their experiences unforgettable in a positive way. The adage that says, “a person won’t remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel,” is very true when it comes to providing customer experiences that are unique because, the customer will remember the service long after they’ve forgotten the price. So, what does all this mean for companies that want to ensure that they create customers who are loyal to their brand and who will become evangelists and raving fans? It means that your company must have the right service attitude, it means that you must create the right policies and procedures that convey that service attitude, it means that you must create customer service standards with the attitude that says, “we care” and we want to make your experience with us an enjoyable, exciting and memorable one.
You can create all the standards, all the policies, all the procedures, but if the people within your organisation are not involved in helping you to create those unique experiences for the customer then, everything else is for nought. It is important that your people help you guide the choices to be made along the various the touch points of the customer journey. It becomes critical then that you hire the right people and not just hiring right but compensating them fairly and creating reward schemes that recognise their efforts. Your employees must be your first set of loyalist, evangelist and raving fans. If your employees are not connected to your brand, then it becomes impossible for them to help your customers connect to your brand. And remember, your customer-facing employees, must be people who like people, they must genuinely want to help your customers. Don’t just hire someone who wants a job, their attitude won’t be the right one, and they will certainly convey the wrong messages to your customers.
Once you have your people, standards, policies, procedures and right attitude in place, the next step is service education. Service education is much more than just training. To make service excellence pervasive throughout your organisation, everybody must be on board – from the CEO to the janitor. This also includes your board of directors, if you have one. Everyone must understand the significance of service excellence and how it leads to repeat business, word of mouth marketing, customer loyalty and its positive effects on profitability. This is an on-going process, just as with service excellence training. You must be serious enough to commit the time and resources to ensure that the customer’s journey and engagement with your brand are unique, memorable and enjoyable. Remember, creating a customer-centric culture is a living, breathing, continuous action, it must be dynamic and never static.
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Judy McCutcheon is a partner in the firm Go Blue Inc, a Human Development Company. www.goblueinc.net