Customer service should not be a reaction to a bad review or negative tweet or something for just one department of your organization. Service excellence demands that we live and breathe a culture of ‘customer first’ every day.
As we close out 2016 and look forward to a new year, this is a time to reflect, recharge, and prepare for 2017. Across our research, this year the customer and their expectations have become the #1 driver for service organizations. And I don’t see this changing in the new year.
There are trends converging which lead to my confidence. Even in our B2B worlds, we are all consumers who have interactions in our daily lives which we take to the office. The experiences we have with Uber and Amazon are now expectations we can’t forget when we look at our SLAs on the maintenance contract or our warranty on that $1M piece of equipment.
This importance of service, and more so quality service, has become a differentiator for businesses. Whether reading about a UK department store or listening to a hotel chain at this year’s Smarter Services Symposium, the customer comes first. And those companies that have considered this to be a tagline or empty motto, are going to be in for a difficult year ahead.
But how can we turn this idea of “customer first” into action? This isn’t a simple task as it demands building a culture which is led by management, employees, processes, and technology. But that UK department store shared three easy tips which I think we should all embrace.
Go the extra mile.
We all hope nothing ever goes wrong. That a piece of equipment we bought never fails. Or that we will never be stuck on the side of the road needing that tow truck. But things happen. In customer service, it is less about the failure and more about the response. Customers don’t expect 100% uptime, but they depend on the service organization minimizing downtime when there is a failure. And organizations that excel at customer service will not only resolve the issue at hand, they will go above and beyond to ensure the customer has a good experience. Bringing a hotel patron a soda or umbrella while they wait for a cab, offering a client a meeting time on your holiday, or a grocery store which co-locates other services you can have a one-stop shopping experience all deliver above and beyond the stated services in a contract.
Show your customers you care.
The competition for service dollars has become quite intense. Manufacturers, third party service providers, contractors, and customers themselves all vie for favor and the job. So no longer is meeting the stated expectation of a service contract good enough for most of the customers out there. With options comes an opportunity, both for the service organization and the competition. It is up to the service provider to demonstrate this relationship is truly a partnership of shared goals and expectations and not just another service contract with SLAs. A cable company that welcomes it’s technicians to spend extra time while on site to help a customer find a lost stuffed animal not just fix the issue on the work order, a support agent who helps a customer prepare for a job interview, or a service organization which lives its social responsibility message – these are all opportunities to show your customers you care. Caring may seem like added operational cost, but in 2017 showing your customers you care may be the difference in a renewal or having to find new buyers.
Your employees are your most important customer.
Your customers buy things from you. But your employees are often the reason your customers buy again or renew a contract. So, a focus on your team IS a focus on your end customers. Engaged, incentivized, and happy employees are often more likely to go the extra mile for customers. Employees are your brand and often your product. Service, unlike products, can avoid commoditization because of employees – each different, with different skills. Tapping into the unique value of your employees to support your customers is a way to stay ahead of the competition. You are the only one with your team, make sure they know they are key to the success of the business.
Service isn’t easy, but we must strive to excel. In 2017, we will have a dedicated research group tied to customer experience and the initiatives that executives look to implement to wow their customers. If you would like to join this research group and share or would like to refer a colleague, please send me a note. I hope 2017 is a year we will all remember for the great customer experience stories we have had and have delivered.