Exceptional customer service makes any business or organisation stand out from its competitors. Over-delivering service. Going the extra mile. Going above and beyond.
We don’t see excellent customer service too often and when we do it leaves a lasting impression. So how can you instil a customer service ethos that every member of staff demonstrates in their daily work?
Why does great service matter?
I’d like to believe that all businesses had a set approach to customer service and that this operates consistently across the business, however large or small it is. Sadly, this is not the case. In the organisations I’ve worked for I have seen significant differences in levels of service, a noticeable lack of consistency.
A video a talk by author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek had a profound impact on me. In it he spoke about his interviews with people in the military who had been awarded medals for saving colleagues in conflict situations, at extreme risk to themselves. Their answer to the question about why they had risked their lives for others were all the same: “Because I know that these people would have done exactly the same for me.”
The military manage to install this ‘esprit de corps’ – a strong regard for the honour of the group – into all its personnel.
In the video Sinek draws a parallel with business (particularly the corporate world) where no one has to risk their lives for others but where this communal spirit is sadly lacking.
I remember taking a phone call from a colleague in my corporate days asking if I could deal with the caller on the line with a general query. I knew my colleague could have handled it.
I asked her why she was passing it along to me. She told me that her manager didn’t like her dealing with any queries that were not specific to her work. He said it wasn’t what she was paid to do and affected meeting the department’s targets.
She was uncomfortable with this. She had wanted to help and did not like passing the caller to me. She felt it reflected badly on the organisation – and I have to agree with her.
That said there are some companies out there that do customer service exceptionally well. My wife and I were on a cruise where every member of staff from the ship’s captain to the general cleaners all had one shared vision – to make our trip as happy and as memorable as possible. The staff worked long hours and worked very hard. But invariably they were happy and smiling, courteous and helpful.
So, what is the brief for your staff? The tips that they can use to imbue their actions with a customer service ethos which supports the organisation and their own careers? These are the tips and action points I would give them.
1. Understand the Goals
Understand the goals that your supervisor has both personally and for the business. Then do everything you can to support them.
Every business or individual should have one thing they want to be known for. Is it the drive or desire to do what they do? Is it to be the best at what they do? Is it to produce the best product or service or the most efficient product or service?
When you understand this then you can see how you can provide the necessary support.
Doing and saying the right thing that supports these aims and ideals – walking the talk – will mean that your boss has increasing confidence in you. Your colleagues will notice you and what you say. You will grow in both confidence and stature.
2. Be helpful
Be the person who says yes. That doesn’t mean being subservient. It means be helpful. Be at the front of the line. Offer to do jobs. Then do those jobs to the best of your ability. Help out colleagues and be supportive. Give praise to others. Thank people who have helped you.
But it is important for common sense to prevail. There can be a fine line between showing initiative – and overstepping the mark. Saying yes sometimes means giving a caveat. ‘Yes, I can do that for you – but not today/ this week.’ Give a deadline that is realistic.
3. Be reliable
Do what you say you are going to do and do it on time. Be there when you are supposed to be. Turn up for work on time or even early. Don’t be late for meetings and keep people waiting. Meet your deadlines. Don’t make excuses.
Reliability creates confidence. People know that you are someone who will do what they say. Will give honest answers and will provide solutions and alternatives and not just raise problems.
We all like being around happy positive people. Your boss will be no different. Don’t be a moaner. Don’t keep complaining to your boss or others about things. If you are not happy in your job the answer is simple – leave.
Remember Dale Carnegie’s “A smile, someone once said, costs nothing but gives much. It enriches those who receive without making poorer those who give. It takes but a moment, but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.”
If you are new to a job start learning and keep learning. Ask questions. Understand what’s going on. Even if you have been in a job for a while don’t think you know everything. Times move on and you need to keep pace with modern approaches and changes. ‘We’ve always done it that way’ is not the answer. Be prepared to look at new and improved.
6. Lead by Example
All of these qualities and attributes add up to leadership. Even junior members of staff can show leadership and demonstrate those skills. Be a leader so that others can follow your example.
There is a story about a Japanese gardener whose duties included raking a large expanse of gravel. He could have simply made sure that the gravel was evenly spread around and left it at that. Instead, he created beautiful and intricate patterns. He took enormous pride in doing his job to the very best of his ability.
With a commit to consistent, high quality customer service from the top of the organisation and staff focusing on bringing this into their everyday actions. They will thrive and so will the business.