Customer Service, the mantra used by many organizations in their mission statements, is often merely words on a wall. One client, when asked about his organizations’ mission, poured through the papers on his desk in search of the statement. When I interrupted his search and encouraged him to just give me the essence of the mission, he replied, “I don’t know, it is just something we did for the brochure!” In order to serve your customers well, the mission statement and vision must serve as a road map for the entire organization.
The leadership must intentionally focus the organization on unparalleled customer service driven which is driven from the top. When done right, mission and vision statements can give an organization an incredibly powerful sense of purpose and direction.
In order to serve customers well, many qualities need to be present in an organization.
- The culture of the organization must be structured in a manner that helps everyone know that customer service is the main priority. Many organizations look for ways to differentiate themselves from their competition and yet it is the experience that customer’s get at your organization which determines whether or not they will return.
- Impression Management is the attention paid to the perception outsiders have of your organization. Businesses need to focus on the impression they hope to give customers starting with the person answering the phone. Everything from your website to printed literature must reflect the image you hope to develop. Dixon-Schwabl, Fortune’s 2010, Best Small Business in America calls their receptionist “Director of First Impressions” to highlight the importance of the position. In addition, the appearance of the organization, as well as the staff, makes a huge difference in the credibility others give you.
- Implementation Plan: Once a customer service strategy is developed, there must be an implementation plan so every employee understands what observable behaviors are required to meet the needs of their customers. Also, each member of the team must recognize how their job works in concert with the overall mission of the organization. The key to job descriptions is they must be periodically reviewed and updated to make sure they meet the current needs of the organization, and ultimately the customer.
- Training: Once you recruit the best applicants for the position you must provide ongoing training and tools for them to accomplish their work. This includes not only job specific training, but interpersonal skills as well.
- Employees must get to know their internal and external customers. This include creating a feedback mechanism to help them not only understand their client’s needs, but help them to develop relationships. The time spent on relationship development is often the characteristic that keeps customers returning time after time. Think of a great customer experience you have had. Did it have to do with a product or the interaction with an employee that made it memorable?
- Role of managers: Supervisors must not only know the products and services of the organization, but how to clearly communicate with employees in a motivational manner. This includes coaching employees to reach higher competencies and empowering them to make decisions commensurate with their ability. The aptitude to make customer service decisions once guidelines and organizational goals have been established, will go a long way toward evolving employee ownership in the business. By empowering employees, customers are not frustrated by the “Run and Check” protocol that wastes time and leaves a bad perception in the eyes of the customer. Supervisors must be visible to employees and encourage open communication of both problems and potential solutions.
- Communication Plan: The leadership must develop a communication plan which keeps all employees abreast of challenges and information influencing the organization. This can be accomplished through regular communication practices which keep the entire organization abreast of any changes which would effect how they serve their customers.
- Measurement: The organization must develop a measurement system which helps the group understand if they are progressing toward the ultimate goal of world class customer service. This includes not only communication, but recognition for jobs well done. Progress should also be communicated to customers, so they understand their feedback was not only heard, but acted upon.
Creating an organization in which all members are focused on customer service allows employees to understand their key roles. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos wrote of the near failure of his organization when they focused on selling shoes. The shift toward “WOW Customer Service” has led them from near bankruptcy to 1 billion dollars in gross revenue in 10 years. By being proactive and developing sound customer service strategies, any organization can increase its ability to compete in today’s global marketplace.