Today’s customer is all powerful, with endless options for products and services, instant access to information and the ability to immediately share their opinion (which may influence other customers). Some companies have actively embraced this new breed of buyer—supporting them with free shipping both ways, 24/7 live customer service and crowd-sourced product input to ensure the voice of the customer is being heard and embraced.
Creating a customer service mentality means something different to every organization. To begin instilling a customer service mentality, clearly define those great service elements—then apply them. Two-way trust, open and honest communication, and fearless sharing are cornerstones of the relationships that come to mean the most to us. These feelings hold just as true with the people that we do business with. As leaders, your role is to adjust or create processes, operations, culture and behaviors to extend those customer service elements to your organization’s reality.
Set an Example for Your Organization
Being a leader means leading by example, and shifting to think of your people also as a customer. If you want employees to know that you value great customer service, then demonstrate this yourself—and be very careful to avoid demonstrating the converse. Doing so gives the organization—throughout the organization—the ability to act and model that behavior.
As leaders, it’s your responsibility to take ownership of the business and the customer experience model for the organization, aligning corporate strategy and priorities with initiatives undertaken in the field.
Make it clear to employees that customer service is part of your mission, starting at orientation—employees are sponges on their first day on the job.
Creating a successful customer experience strategy relies on interdependency across different teams and functional groups. The entire team must be motivated to work together to respond to questions, issues, ideas and customer feedback. This is not just limited to those on the front lines caring for customers in distress.
Empower Your Team Leaders
Inspiring your managers to act as owners empowers them to make good decisions that support the strategic customer service priorities of your business. As the key link between senior leaders and the front line, your managers need to understand their role and how important they are. Identify and communicate the positives your managers are doing to drive the customer and employee experience.
Ensure that your team leaders actively participate in regular training events that reinforce the organization's values and update service guidelines.
This also helps to showcase how others can adopt and emulate those same behaviors.
Managers that can empower teams to handle situations autonomously are setting those teams up for success. There is nothing more frustrating—for both a customer and an employee—than having to put a conversation on hold to wait for manager input on how to proceed.
Invest in Your Front Line
Too often, companies reserve big budgets for senior management training while spreading funding thin for front line personnel. Similarly, too many companies are content to hire front line staff without carefully considering whether they possess the right attitude and values to represent their brand. This presents a problem when you consider employee ghosting hitting customer service jobs the hardest.
At Zappos, it’s not unusual for someone interviewing for a $13-per-hour call center job to meet with 15 people before being hired. If they do get the job offer, they will be required to sit through several weeks of training, including listening to recordings of real customer interactions, before they ever work a full day.
As companies such as McDonald’s and Bank of America reconsider how their employees interact with customers, they will be challenged to move beyond just rhetoric. If they are truly serious about turning their people into their greatest asset, they’ll invest in the front line.
Mutual Trust Goes a Long Way
Ultimately, customer service is about taking care of each and every one of your customers in such a way that you maximize the likelihood that they will continue to use your product or service. As customers, we trust the companies who trust us back. We seek out companies whose employees are given permission to do the right thing, and where we are honored as individuals and not just assets. We breathe a sigh of relief and gratitude when “Gotcha!” moments are flipped to “We’ve got your back” moments. We applaud accountability because we know that everyone makes mistakes. And we thank goodness for the companies who level the playing field, and give us information to prosper.
When you engage your employees at every level, provide the big-picture vision and help them recognize the behaviors, processes, and operations that enable them to execute that vision, your organization will be best positioned to deliver positive experiences to your customers.
Need some tips to breathe new life into your customer service incentives? Follow these 12 speedy steps to resuscitate a flatlining program.