At the risk of over simplifying a very complex topic, the customer service experience we deliver is often only the service we expect ourselves.
But, when providing a service in the moment it is easy to forget our own expectations.
I have recently had several discussions with friends and family regarding the service experiences received from various companies. Unfortunately, the service is often not what has been promised or committed to. Why is it that providing a standard basic experience seems to be a difficult thing to provide?
According to a report created by the Genesys group titled the Cost of Poor Customer Service, 73% of consumers end a relationship due to poor service.
Having worked across many industries and companies I have identified a few key factors that influence culture and ultimately the service provided.
1. Time management and the ability to prioritise the most important tasks and actions has become more difficult. This is the result of expectations set by companies and also individual people’s capabilities.
2. The culture itself significantly impacts on service delivery standards. If the expectations set by senior leadership are inconsistent with what is actually happening within the organisation, then employees are much more likely to follow what they see rather than what they are told. Well thought out policies, procedures and standards form the baseline for employees to bother to provide service that meets customer expectation at a minimum. However, good structure and standards are rarely enough on their own. Creating an environment where employees have a say and autonomy meets both the need to manage random situations and the human needs of fulfilment and contribution.
Consistency, context and clarity are incredibly important for employees to find their own way, within appropriate expectations.
3. Effective leadership that enables and develops capability across the whole team creates functional teamwork, greater care, accountability and ownership. In most cases these cannot simply be given, rather must become part of the team or company culture. Creating an environment where employees can feel a level of autonomy and ownership is key. This allows for dealing with customer needs without a ‘straight-jacket’ and rigid thinking.
4. Empathy matters! Customers and employees can feel when we don’t care or when indifference exists. There are few ‘tricks’ with this. To provide good service, an employee must attempt to understand the needs of the customer. To understand takes good questioning and listening skills. When we understand, we can solve problems. When we communicate well and solve problems, we succeed. Through this cycle, the employee feels the joy of contribution; the customer is satisfied; and the business feels the benefit.
A couple of years ago I spoke at a Customer Experience conference. My presentation was titled ‘Customer Experience Management from the Inside-Out‘. The core theme implied that if we want to genuinely positively impact customer experience and service standards, we must build a culture and understanding with all employees that the customer matters. Organisations should view Customer Experience as a culture, not a tool. I imagine everyone in the room knew this. I also believe that most of the attendees, all specialists in their fields, actively focus on internal culture, employee engagement and the relationship to customer service to some degree. Many of them may even measure this.
However, building a culture that is actively and meaningfully engaging both internal customers (your employees) and external customers should be the focus. This creates real value for all involved.
A favourite speaker of mine is Simon Sinek. He often focuses on the reasons why people, employees and leaders do what they do. In the video below Simon explains why employees should be your first priority.
I think it’s funny when we are given advice to always put the customer first. That means employees come second inherently if you’re going to put customer first. Great customer service companies actually care first about their own people, their employees and they expect their employees to care about their customers.
I have written previously that, effective leadership and employee engagement are critical factors in providing a culture where people want to work…and to provide more of what our customers want. Foundation values such as empowerment and employee satisfaction cannot be given to an individual or employee-base. However, creating an environment that has a higher propensity towards meeting these needs is possible.
Ken Blanchard notes that, it all starts with the leaders of the organization creating a motivating environment for their people to work in. When that happens, it’s no surprise when the workers go out of their way to serve their customers…and the good word gets around. The organization’s best salespeople are the customers they’re already serving. The end result of all of this good news is that the organization becomes sound financially.
So often we think business is all about making money and that customers are the most important thing.
But, if you don’t treat your employees well and give them a reason to come to work, they aren’t going to be motivated to give excellent service to your customers, and customers who aren’t treated well have lots of other places they can go.
Think of your organization as a stagecoach. Upper management might be the drivers of the stagecoach, but your people are the horses—the ones who create the forward movement. If the leaders get knocked out of the stagecoach, it keeps moving. But if something happens to the horses, everything comes to a screeching halt. So serve and help each other, and then reach out to your customers with the enthusiasm and desire and fabulous service that will make them raving fans…
…Don’t forget that without your people, you’re nothing.
There is often a gap between intent and behaviour when it comes to leadership, development, employee engagement, empowerment and cultures in many organisations.
It is always worth taking another look at the service being provided by your team members. Most importantly, is your culture and leadership team supporting and actively encouraging a good service experience? Lift the lid and take a look. You will be surprised what you find.